Home Office reverses attempt to deport Jamaican man 'to Iraq'

O’Neil Wallfall was refused leave to remain for failing to show his life would be at risk in country he has never visited

The Home Office has made a U-turn in the case of a man caring for his terminally ill partner who was told he was going to be deported to Jamaica because officials had concluded that he “failed to demonstrate that his life would be at risk in Iraq”.

The Guardian reported last month that O’Neil Wallfall, 49 – who has never been to Iraq – received a refusal letter that appeared to indicate his case had been confused with that of someone else.

The government also said in the same document that it would not be “unreasonable” or “unduly harsh” to expect his British partner, Karen McQueen, 56, to relocate to his homeland of Jamaica with him. McQueen has a diagnosis of terminal cancer and is awaiting a transplant after kidney failure.

In the letter rejecting Wallfall’s application – which his lawyer said provided clear evidence that the government “copies and pastes” letters and disregards individual submissions when reaching its conclusions – the Home Office wrote: “You have claimed that you will be unlawfully killed on return to Iraq … you have not demonstrated … that death is virtually certain.”

After being contacted by the Guardian, the Home Office said it was reconsidering its decision “in light of further information”.

Last Friday, Wallfall’s solicitor Naga Kandiah, of MTC Solicitors, received a letter from the Home Office that said: “After a review of the case it has been decided to grant 30 months’ leave on the basis of Mr Wallfall’s family life.”

Wallfall has been in the UK since 2002 and has been waiting for 17 years to regularise his status. He has been in a relationship with McQueen for three years. The couple said they were very much in love. She was dependent on him for support with her serious health conditions.

The couple said they were overjoyed about the Home Office U-turn. Wallfall said he broke down in tears when he got the news. “I’ve been waiting 17 years for this,” he said. “Now Karen and I can get on with our lives together. At last I can sleep and don’t have to look over my shoulder for immigration all the time. The first thing I want to do is get a job. I’d love to work as a postman or for the NHS.”

McQueen said: “I don’t think we would have got this change of heart from the Home Office without the Guardian highlighting our case.”

“This is brilliant and unbelievable,” she added. “My life feels complete for the first time. It’s as if our lives have been given back to us by the Home Office and now we’re free.”

Kandiah condemned the original refusal letter citing Iraq and welcomed the government’s change of heart.Before the decision to grant 30 months’ leave he had been planning to challenge the refusal in court.

“This client, like so many others in similar situations, was at the height of vulnerability when this refusal came through,” said Kandiah. “The Home Office has done this U-turn to avoid professional embarrassment in front of a judge had the case had gone to court.”

He said he believed that the Home Office’s copying and pasting of refusal decisions, as in Wallfall’s case, was not a one-off phenomenon.

In another Home Office refusal letter seen by the Guardian, officials said they would deport a man to his home country Sri Lanka because “you are of an economically active age and will be able to return to Nigeria and sustain yourself”. The same letter then added: “You do not have leave to enter or remain in the UK and can be removed to Qatar (Doha) India (Mumbai), Oman (Muscat) and Turkey (Istanbul).”

The Home Office said: “Mr Wallfall’s case was reconsidered in light of further information being provided. This was unrelated to the error in the initial decision letter.”

Contributor

Diane Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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