British lawmaker says wrongly deported constituent has Stage 4 cancer

On Tuesday, the MP for Newcastle Central, Chi Onwurah, tweeted at the Home Office. Onwurah’s constituent, whom she leaves anonymous in order to protect his privacy, was wrongly deported to Lithuania, she tweeted. Though the Home Office has since recognized that his deportation was in error, it also refused to pay for his return to the U.K. until Thursday, she said.

Even worse: This man is dying.

He reportedly made his home in Newcastle for the last 10 years, meaning his family and entire support structure was based there and was also suffering from Stage 4 cancer.

With reportedly only weeks left to live and the period during which he would be well enough to travel decreasing, returning this man to his home and family was increasingly urgent. And as Home Office staff kept promising to take action only to allegedly fail to follow through, Onwurah took to social media in the hopes that the pressure of public attention might force the office to do something.

“For those asking why I am not talking to the Home Office through official MP’s channels rather than Social Media, we have tried that & been promised a response which has not come. Over the last 18 months Home Office response times have deteriorated, but my constituent cannot wait any longer. Like many MPs I am often  reluctant to publicise deportation cases in order to protect the privacy of the person concerned and  because there may be things we don’t know about in their history.  But for over three weeks now I have been asking the Home Office to bring back this terminally ill constituent or tell me why, without success,” Onwurah told the Daily Dot in a statement.

Though the Home Office initially responded vaguely to the Daily Dot’s request for comment with “[t]he individual is currently free to travel to and from the UK as an EU citizen,” Onwurah later shared that it would, in fact, pay for her constituent’s travel home. The pointed and viral tweets, it seems, made all the difference.

Reportedly, the problem that caused the man’s deportation was his lack of documents proving residency, a problem a great number of immigrant Britains have had in recent years—most notably the Windrush Generation. Invited from the Caribbean to help with labor shortage after World War 2, the landing cards that proved their date of entry, and that it was prior to the cut off point in 1971, were destroyed by the government in 2010.

As something as simple as subletting a flat can result in insufficient documents for proof of residency, and the fact that prior to Brexit EU citizens had no reason to believe they’d need such documentary proof, we may be seeing a rise in cases in the coming years.

This post has been updated.

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Siobhan Ball

Siobhan Ball

Siobhan Ball is a historian, archivist, and journalist. She also writes for Autostraddle and bi.org