Singaporean loses fight to stay in UK with her family

Mrs Irene Clennell arrives in Singapore after being deported from Britain.ST VIDEO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

52-year-old grandmum back in Singapore after deportation, but will appeal against decision

Mrs Irene Clennell looked lost when she stepped into Changi Airport's Terminal 3 arrival hall yesterday, clad in a black fur coat ill-suited for the local weather.

The Singaporean had been wearing that thick coat when she was first detained in wintry England on Jan 20 for allegedly breaching British immigration rules.

And it has now travelled with her to sunny Singapore, barely 36 hours after she was informed she would be separated from her family in Britain and deported immediately.

In an interview at Changi Airport yesterday, Mrs Clennell, 52, broke down as she recalled her last meeting with her husband John Clennell last Friday. The former gas mains layer suffers from health and mobility problems and Mrs Clennell was his sole caregiver.

"It took him four hours to travel to the centre to meet me, and I could see he was hiding the pain. We didn't know they were going to deport me days later," she said.

She also now faces a 10-year travel ban to Britain as she was removed from the country at the public's expense.

Mrs Clennell with her sister, Ms Lily Anthony, at Changi Airport yesterday. She will be staying at her sister's rented apartment temporarily, and said she intends to work if she can find a job.
Mrs Clennell with her sister, Ms Lily Anthony, at Changi Airport yesterday. She will be staying at her sister's rented apartment temporarily, and said she intends to work if she can find a job. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Mrs Clennell's case has caught the attention of the British press and pro-migrant advocacy groups amid the complex immigration situation in Europe.

The couple married 27 years ago and have two sons, aged 27 and 25, and a granddaughter, who is less than a year old.

Mrs Clennell was initially granted a spousal permit to reside in Britain - an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), which states that the holder cannot live outside the country for more than two years. The ILR was voided when she lived in Singapore from 1992 to look after her sick mother, who died in 1999.

All her repeated applications for another ILR have failed since. She was allowed back into Britain in 2013 to make another application, which failed too.

Mrs Clennell had hoped for good news when she was summoned at Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre on Sunday at about 10am (6pm Singapore time). Instead, she was told she would be deported to Singapore immediately.

She accused the British authorities of tearing her family apart and denying her due process, as she believed that her case was still being looked at by her legal representatives, she told The Straits Times.

But these efforts seem fruitless: Mrs Clennell was put on a plane to Singapore. Upon landing here, she was quizzed for almost an hour by immigration officers on her situation and her future plans. At around 3.30pm, she met two of her three sisters - Ms Lily Anthony and Ms Juspin Anthony - at the arrival gate.

UNEXPECTED FAREWELL

It took him four hours to travel to the centre to meet me, and I could see he was hiding the pain. We didn't know they were going to deport me days later.

MRS IRENE CLENNELL, recalling her last meeting with her husband John.

Her belongings are still in her home in County Durham and she carried only £25 (S$43) - her earnings from working at the detention centre's laundromat.

The British Home Office, which is responsible for immigration, told ST that applications for an ILR are "considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules". The spokesman added that "we expect those with no legal right to remain in the country to leave".

Mrs Clennell said she will appeal against the decision and reach out to the European Court of Justice for help.

Meanwhile, she will be putting up at Ms Lily Anthony's rented apartment, though the arrangement is only temporary as her sister's tenancy agreement does not allow long-term guests.

Mrs Clennell intends to work if someone is willing to hire her.

Said Ms Anthony, 54, a financial accountant: "My sister is a very strong person and she will find a way, somehow."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'S'porean loses fight to stay in UK with her family'. Print Edition | Subscribe