Chennan Fei, 28, faces deportation from her home in Glasgow after over 14 years in UK
A WOMAN WHO HAS MADE HER LIFE AND HOME in Scotland has been placed in prison-style detention by the Tory Government and now faces the imminent threat of deportation.
Chennan Fei, a 28 year old accountant graduate and community volunteer, is now being held at Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire having been detained at Dungavel in Scotland. Fei, who has lived in Scotland since she was 13, is the victim of bureaucratic migration rules that now leave her facing deportation from the life she has made for herself.
Fei, born in China, attended secondary school in Scotland before graduating in accounting from the University of Edinburgh. She is in a relationship with a Scottish national, Duncan Harkness and all her friends and close relationships are in Scotland. In an emotional call for support, Fei said she wants to come home to Scotland – while her partner announced that he was planning to propose to her.
— Anne McLaughlin MP (@AnneMcLaughlin) March 28, 2017
“I am trapped. My mind and my body wants to be liberated…I just hope I don’t have to stay here too long. I want to come home to Scotland.” Chennan Fei
Yet the removal of ‘right to remain’ support by the Tory Government has placed her legal status in jeopardy. Her parents, who also moved to Scotland, planned to gain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) on the grounds of long residence. However, just three months before qualifying for this right (the 14-year rule in paragraph 276B(i)(b) of the Immigration Act) it was removed on 9 July 2012 – leaving Fei in legal limbo.
Her local MP Anne McLaughlin has taken up the urgent case, with concerns that deportation would breach her rights under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Fei, who is currently detained, and her partner Duncan Harkness, have released statements. Campaigners have also launched a ‘Help Chennan Fei Stay in Scotland- Stop her Deportation’ campaign petition on Change.org.
“I cannot face the prospect of not only losing my girlfriend, but potentially being robbed of an opportunity to say goodbye.” Duncan Harkness, Chennan’s partner
Fei said: “I’ve borrowed two books here but only managed to read three chapters in the last three days. Usually it only take me one night to finish a book, but somehow I cannot stay focussed while being here. Every morning I woke up at 6-ish, trying to figure out what I need to get done for the day. I stare at the bunnies running free on the grass outside while I wait for breakfast.
“It’s a strange feeling. Although they say it’s not a prison, I am trapped. My mind and my body wants to be liberated. I can’t seem to remember much from the last few days, and this agonising feeling just grows stronger every passing day. Being here is mind numbing, I see others losing track of the date and time. I just hope I don’t have to stay here too long. I want to come home to Scotland.”
“It would be inhumane to deport her back to a country where she has no support, nowhere to stay and no family to provide assistance.” Duncan Harkness
Harkness, who lives in Tory MP and Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell’s constituency, added: “I was devastated to hear of Chennan’s detention and potential removal from the UK. The past few days have been an ongoing nightmare as I’m stuck in the USA on pre-planned holiday. I cannot face the prospect of not only losing my girlfriend, but potentially being robbed of an opportunity to say goodbye.
“We enjoy a strong, loving relationship with support from our friends and family. Our future plans were, upon returning from my vacation, for us to move in together (and, though I didn’t want her to find out this way, for me to propose shortly thereafter).
“I don’t claim to be an expert on immigration law, or on the technical/legal details of her case. At face value though, Chennan is a highly skilled individual (with a degree from Edinburgh University in accounting) who has never had any trouble with the authorities.
“She is deeply loved by a wide circle of friends and family and, thanks to her volunteer work, regularly makes a positive impact on the lives of those within the UK. Her unique mix of skills, along with her naturally positive attitude would be extremely beneficial to the UK and I firmly believe it is not in this government’s best interests to remove her from the country. As Chennan moved to the UK as a young child, she has no friends, family or contacts in China. It would be inhumane to deport her back to a country where she has no support, nowhere to stay and no family to provide assistance.”
Local MP Anne McLaughlin has written to previous immigration minister James Brokenshire MP last year in relation to the case, and current minister Robert Goodwill MP on Friday 24 March.
McLaughlin said: “I met Chennan 18 months ago when she visited my Glasgow North East constituency to explain the circumstances surrounding her current immigration status. I was very impressed with this sensitive, intelligent young woman. Although, there is no rule or provision in the Immigration Act that deals directly with the ‘children’ of over-stayers, for Chennan to be exiled from all her friends and family in the UK is an extremely harsh decision for the Home Office to make.
“My primary concern is that a young woman who has grown up and been educated in the UK, who is also volunteering in charities and contributing to the community, should be able to offer her services fully to the country she calls home.” Anne McLaughlin MP
“Chennan is now 28 years old and has lived more than half her life in Scotland. She has a Scottish partner and most definitely established a strong ‘private life’ here. Although her almost 15 years living in the UK may not be considered ‘legal’, this is through no fault of Chennan’s. She is blameless.
“Chennan has volunteered at several agencies in Glasgow including the Scottish Refugee Council in Glasgow putting the accountancy skills she learned at university to good use, as she is not permitted to take up paid employment – she is not someone to sit around all day, she is exactly the kind of person I would want to encourage to contribute to our society. Chennan is not a burden to UK society and given her past academic accomplishment, a degree from the University of Edinburgh and her current charitable endeavours, it is unlikely that she would become a burden in the future. If anything, I would say she could very well be an asset to the UK.
“My primary concern is that a young woman who has grown up and been educated in the UK, who is also volunteering in charities and contributing to the community, should be able to offer her services fully to the country she calls home. Chennan considers English to be her primary language. She tells me she is no longer fluent in Mandarin nor can she read or write the language well. She has no home to go to in China and she does not have any real social or cultural ties to China. I feel that it would be a breach of Chennan’s human rights under Article 8 of ECHR to forcibly return her to China.
“It is worth remembering that whatever the rights and wrongs of her family situation, Chennan has done nothing wrong. Nor did she have any knowledge that her parents were overstaying, any input to the decisions or power to change anything.”
CommonSpace requested a response from the Home Office on the case, but received no reply by time of publication.
UPDATE: Following publication, a Home Office spokesperson told CommonSpace: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.” “If someone is found not to need our protection we expect them to leave the UK,” the Home Office said.
Picture: Chennan Fei
Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is: Pledge your support today.