Grandmother speaks of relief after narrowly avoiding deportation

A grandmother who faced deportation despite living in Britain for nearly 50 years has told of her relief after being released from a detention centre.

Paulette Wilson
Paulette Wilson

Paulette Wilson, 61, had spent a week at the notorious Yarl’s Wood immigration removal complex near Bedford after being detained by Home Office officials.

For two years the Home Office has wrongly claimed she had no right to stay in the country.

She was moved to another site near Heathrow Airport where she was expecting to be put on a plane back to her native Jamaica.

But at lunchtime on Wednesday she was told she was being released.

Ms Wilson, of Heath Town, Wolverhampton, said: “It feels fantastic. I’m back with the people that love me.

“I can’t put it in words. It just feels fantastic.

“When they took me to this place near this airport I woke up and thought I was going to be put on the plane.

“I went for an interview with the Jamaican High Commission and they said to me that I was not going to be put on a plane. Two minutes after that I was released.”

Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre

Ms Wilson was reunited with her daughter Natalie Barnes at Wolverhampton railway station on Wednesday night.

Ms Barnes said: “She is absolutely adorable, so bubbly, it is sad someone so nice has had to go through this.

“I have never heard my mum screaming down the phone like that.

“The fear in her voice was absolutely horrendous.

“She was saying to me on the phone that she probably would never see me again for a few good months or years because they are going to send her back to Jamaica. Nobody deserves to go through something like this, especially when they are not an illegal immigrant.

“It has had a terrible impact on my mum. She has changed. She is not as bubbly.

“It is amazing to have her back. I am over the moon.”

Ms Wilson arrived in the UK as a 10-year-old in 1968, before immigration status rules were introduced.

Government guidelines state that anyone who settled in the UK by January 1, 1973, has the right to remain in the country.

She was looked after by her grandparents in Wellington near Telford. When they died a short time after and she was taken into the care of Shropshire Council and placed in the Vineyard children’s home in Wellington.

She has never left the UK, worked all her life, including as a chef in the Houses of Parliament, and made 34 years of National Insurance payments.

In 2015 Ms Wilson received a letter ‘out of the blue’ saying she had no right to be in the country.

She was told she had to register each month in Solihull, and it was while reporting to immigration officials there on Wednesday last week that she was detained and taken to the Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre.

Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre

The Refugee and Migrant Centre in Wolverhampton have been assisting Ms Wilson with her case over the past two years and she was represented by solicitor James Wilson.

Mr Wilson said: “I think it is an horrendous case.

“It is quite disgusting the way these people have behaved.

“We don’t know all the reasons why they have behaved in this way and I think the Home Office should have an investigation, preferably an independent investigation of what has gone on.”

Her family are now considering taking legal action against the Home Office.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”

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