Cambridgeshire

Illegal immigrant desperate to return home after 20 years

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Media captionChris Swanepoel admits he is in the UK illegally

A man who has been living in the UK illegally for 20 years says he is now desperate to return to South Africa.

Chris Swanepoel, 44, came to England in 1994 on a fake passport.

He said he earned up to £40,000 a year working in jobs including in the food industry, but a government clampdown on illegal immigrants had reduced his opportunities.

"It has become a lot, lot harder," he said. "I can't do what I was doing 10 to 15 years ago."

Mr Swanepoel, who has spent much of the past two decades in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, applied for a British passport 10 years ago.

His true identity was revealed and he was given a suspended prison sentence.

He was granted temporary leave to appeal, which has long expired, and he has spent the past eight or nine years evading deportation.

Image caption Chris Swanepoel said a government clampdown had made it harder to find work

He said he bought the passport which he used to gain entry to the UK for $150, in Israel in 1994.

"I'm an illegal immigrant," Mr Swanepoel said. "Simple as that.

"I am Ken to many people, have been Ken for 20 years. I know inside I am Chris."

He claims he no longer has a South African passport, but does have an ID number from when he was on military service.

Mr Swanepoel said since being in the UK he had always paid his taxes and taken "nothing whatsoever" from the government.

But he said his recent attempts to hand himself in, via police, have been unsuccessful.

"Right now I'm going to get on a bus and I'm going to Heathrow Airport," he said.

"I've tried everything the last few days to get in touch with immigration to try and get me out. I've had absolutely no help other than 'you'll have to wait, you'll have to wait'."

A spokesman for the Home Office said: "If somebody wants to return voluntarily they can go to their embassy.

"It is down to them to prove that they are a national."

Home Office figures show that in 2012, more than 41,000 foreign nationals were removed from the UK under immigration laws.

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