Published at Detention Action
Imagine moving to the UK as a young man. You find work and set up life here. You meet a British woman. You fall in love. You get married, start a family. The UK becomes your home. But things are not always straightforward. You fall in with the wrong crowd. You start selling drugs. You are caught, convicted and sent to prison. You count down the days before you will have repaid your debt to society, and can go back to your wife and children, restart your life.
But then you receive a letter from the Home Office.
You will be deported to Jamaica, the country you left 15 years ago, and you cannot even appeal before you go. You will be torn from your wife and children, but will have no chance to put your case before a judge: you can appeal only after you have been deported. Except that you won’t be able to get a UK immigration lawyer from Jamaica. Even if you have the legal skills to represent yourself, you’ll struggle with practical details: is video link available at the local court? Can you afford it?
You read and re-read the 21-page letter that determines your future and that of your children. Despite evidence to the contrary, a faceless bureaucracy has decided that you do not have a ‘genuine and subsisting’ relationship with your children. With no legal options open to you, you must leave.
This was the situation Mr Byndloss found himself in when he tried to challenge his deportation order. Due to his conviction, his case was subject to the ‘deport first, appeal later’ rules. Despite his British wife and British-born children, despite having lived here lawfully since 2006, he would be deported without ever getting his case before a court.
‘Deport first, appeal later’ initially denied migrants who had committed criminal offences the right to appeal from within the UK unless they could show a ‘real risk of serious irreversible harm’ if deported. Then in 2016, this power was extended to include all immigration appeals, with the exception of asylum cases.