A young Spanish woman has been held for four days in an immigrant expulsion center three hours from London , without access to her belongings and almost incommunicado, after trying to enter the United Kingdom and declaring her intention to seek work without a visa that, after Brexit, it is necessary for it.
The case of “María” -fictitious name-, a 25-year-old Valencian woman, came to light thanks to her friend Oriol Arnedo, a resident of the United Kingdom, who published a thread on Twitter in which she explained the story.
A friend of the young woman, who asked that her identity not be revealed for fear of possible reprisals and who is one of the few people who has been able to contact her, described the situation as “dystopian” and “surreal” in an interview.
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It narrates that María resided in the United Kingdom for six months in 2019 and returned to Spain for academic reasons, although with the idea of returning in the future, a plan that the pandemic and the three confinements that the country has gone through, forced her to postpone until Last monday.
However, he was not aware until he reached immigration control at London Gatwick Airport that he had unconsciously made a bureaucratic mistake. They asked her why she was traveling, and she stated that she was coming for “work reasons”.
He had with him his English Social Security number (NIN) , employment contracts, a negative PCR and a valid passport, but he lacked the temporary residence permit for EU residents (Pre-settled Status) that he was going to request on the ground British and to which you have the right to have already resided in the country.
“Many people are having the same mistake, because they have been to the UK before and they think that just going back is enough,” admits the friend.
It was at the same airport that María’s odyssey began: they took her cell phone, passport and suitcases , and took her to a room “with many more people in the same situation.”
In that room, she was able to use a telephone to contact her friend and her sister (also a London resident), who were waiting for her in the British capital. After that call, they were 12 hours without knowing anything about her or her whereabouts.
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They called that phone again and there she picked up a Canarian boy who had been detained with her and who told them that they had taken her away at dawn with other girls.
Her friend then began a “detective” journey until she was able to find out which was the immigrant expulsion center to which they had taken Maria, and talk to her, who had no idea where she was.
María has been in the Yarl’s Wood Immigrant Removal Center since last Monday in harsh conditions: cold, with the same socks, and a couple of changes. He has been denied access to his belongings after three positive cases of covid were detected in the same module of the center, where he will have to remain isolated for the next ten days.
Her friend assures that María “is being very strong” and that they are in contact with her to update her on all the information. In this sense, she comments that María is fortunate to have relatives in the United Kingdom who care about her.
They claim that had she been returned to Spain in the first available plane, “she would never have entered that detention center, nor would she have to be in isolation.”
They still do not know the fate that awaits Maria, as she has not been offered legal support, nor does she know if she will be deported or if she will be denied entry to the United Kingdom forever or temporarily.
Investigation of the case
The Consulate General of Spain in London has evidence of the case of a Spanish woman who has been detained in London, confirmed diplomatic sources, adding that the young woman “is currently in a detention center due to visa problems.”
“Since the entry into force of Brexit, the requirements to enter the United Kingdom have tightened and it is mandatory to enter with a visa . This Spanish citizen did not have one and has therefore been detained pending a decision by the British authorities” they added.
Meanwhile, British sources assured that they are “investigating the case urgently”.
A spokesman for the British Home Office said that “Citizens of EU countries are our friends and neighbors and those who resided in the UK before 31 December 2020 have until 30 June to register for the Settlement Scheme, because we want them to stay. ”
“Those arriving after January 1 need to have proof of their right to live and work in the UK,” the spokesperson added.
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The organization The 3 Million, which looks after the interests of community citizens in the United Kingdom, warned that events like that of María, in which “an EU citizen is detained and deprived of liberty for several days, paint a very worrying”.
Maike Bohn, co-founder of the NGO, added that “it is not at all clear that these are proportionate measures : before sending people back to their country of origin they are locked up in a detention center.”
For the activist, “there are many mechanisms available to the Ministry of the Interior in this situation and locking someone up in a detention center should be the last resort”.