A grandfather visiting London from Australia spent five days imprisoned at an immigration centre near Heathrow after flying in for the birth of his fourth grandchild.
Border officials quizzed Gary Newman, 68, for 15 hours when he touched down from Melbourne before sending him to the holding centre at Harmondsworth when medical tests revealed he was unfit to be flown back home.
As a regular visitor to his family in Britain, he had already spent 180 days in the UK in the previous 12 months, and was classified as having overstayed his visa.
Mr Newman, who has hypertension controlled by medication, was held for five days before pressure from his son’s MP, Speaker John Bercow, secured his release into the care of his family.
The retired retail buying manager said: “They decided I wasn’t a genuine tourist. On a tourist visa you get 180 days a year and they said I’d reached the 180 days and refused me leave of entry. They took my diary and went through with a fine-tooth comb what my relationships were.
“They wouldn’t tell me where they were taking me and then I found out in the prison van I was going to be incarcerated at Harmondsworth. It wasn’t very nice. It’s high security.
“There are 16ft walls covered in 4ft of razor wire. From 9pm to 8am it was complete lockdown in a cell. There was something in there as I got a bite on my arm that still hasn’t healed. Hardened criminals were in the same wing, with 680 people in there. They took away my phones with cameras in.
“I think I’m only the second Australian to be put in there. I have no complaints about the officers — they were good to me. They felt the same way, they were embarrassed. I had a return ticket and all my medical expenses had been paid by me, but I was shown little or no official compassion and very little understanding.
“I assume they have probably been given targets and a 68-year-old grandfather is a soft target. I have been visiting this wonderful country since 1970. I always left on time and never broke any visa restrictions.
“I went and watched my eldest grandson play cricket at his school. That was nice but those things are going to be removed from me. Are they telling me I’m not allowed to see my grandchildren as they grow up? It’s over the top.”
Mr Newman claimed immigration officials “made a terrible judgment…putting someone in my condition and age into a facility like Harmondsworth.Without a doubt it affected my health.”
Mr Newman is allowed to remain with one of his sons until a doctor declares him fit to fly, which he expects to happen within the next two weeks.
He has asked for an extension but the Home Office have refused “leave to enter”.
They say that since June last year he has spent 181 days in the UK and on one visit he “formed a company” after he became a director. His mother and
maternal grandmother were born in London and he has been a regular visitor for more than 40 years.
Both his sons live in the UK, including Brett Newman, 36, a British citizen who owns a pub in Buckinghamshire.
He said: “It seems particularly harsh. He’s a 68-year-old Australian grandfather, he’s not going to do a runner. The heavy-handed use of detention was a bit extreme…it’s not like he’d smuggled drugs.”
A Home Office spokesman said Border Force officers have to be satisfied that visitors will leave at the completion of their trip.
Source : Standard UK
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