Woman sent back to Singapore despite 27-year marriage

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Media caption,

Irene Clennell talks to BBC

A woman married to a British man for 27 years has been sent back to Singapore.

Irene Clennell told the BBC she has been removed without warning.

She had been living near Durham with her husband, and has two British sons, as well as a granddaughter, in the UK.

Periods spent abroad caring for her parents are thought to have invalidated her residential status.

It is understood Mrs Clennell has spent most of her life in Singapore.

The Home Office said it expected all those without leave to remain to exit the country once their visa expires.

Mrs Clennell told the BBC she was put in a van and taken to the airport from the Dungavel Detention Centre in South Lanarkshire on Saturday.

She also said she was unable to contact her lawyer and did not have the chance to get any clothes from her home.

She had been held at the facility since the start of February.

Applications rejected

Mrs Clennell, who had been living in Chester-le-Street, was given indefinite leave in 1992 to remain in the UK after her marriage - but this lapsed because she lived outside the UK for more than two years.

According to Li Goh-Piper, a Kent-based supporter who is running a petition calling for her return to the UK, she had arrived in 1988 and married two years later.

Mrs Clennell and her husband moved to Singapore in 1992, before Mr Clennell returned to the UK in 1998 with their children.

Mrs Clennell remained to care for her mother and says she came back to the UK several times for short visits. She lived in the UK in 2003 until January 2005 and says that during this time she made numerous applications for leave to remain, which were all rejected.

After being turned back at a UK airport in 2007, she makes another application at the British High Commission in Singapore in 2012.

However, Mrs Goh-Piper says, this was rejected on the basis that Mrs Clennell could not provide proof of contact with her family, because she used Yahoo Messenger and pre-paid phone cards to contact them.

Visa rules

  • A Returning Resident visa is required to come back to live in the UK if a person given indefinite leave to enter or remain loses their documents or is away for more than two years
  • An application must demonstrate a person has strong family ties to the UK, has lived in the UK most of their life, their current circumstances and why they have lived outside the UK
  • Ruling does not apply if an applicant has a spouse or partner who is a member of the UK armed forces and joins them overseas

Mrs Clennell eventually entered the UK in 2013 and made two applications for leave to remain - both were rejected, as was her final application in 2016.

Mrs Goh-Piper also said Mrs Clennell did not apply for a British passport because Singapore does not allow dual nationality, and she needed to be a Singapore national to remain the leaseholder of a government flat there.

Mrs Clennell says her husband is now in poor health and she has become his principal carer.

Previously speaking to the BBC's Fiona Walker from the Scottish detention centre, she said: "I knew that when I got indefinite leave to remain I can't stay outside of the country for more than two years.

"But then my husband was with me, he came to live with me for five years in Singapore.

"Initially when I applied for indefinite leave to remain I got it no problem at all. So I thought when you're married down here, you're entitled to be here.

"The kids are born here, my husband is from this country, so I don't see what the issue is, but they keep rejecting all the applications."

A Home Office spokesman said: "All applications for leave to remain in the UK are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules.

"We expect those with no legal right to remain in the country to leave."

The charity Migrant Voice says a campaign is starting to bring her back to Britain.

Director Nazek Ramadan said her case was "yet another example of how arbitrary policies tear apart families and ruin lives".