Farewell to Nancy
The UK’s hostile immigration policies aren’t only affecting the Windrush generation. Justin Brierley tells the story of a young couple’s tragic battle with an unjust and broken system
Visiting Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre is a lot like visiting a prison. Tall chain link fences surround the compound. Uniformed guards enforce strict security protocols before unlocking a series of heavy doors. No bags, cameras or mobile phones may be taken into the visiting area. Yet the young, black, South African couple that we were visiting had committed no crime. They had been abruptly detained and threatened with removal in August 2017 while pursuing a complex, but perfectly lawful immigration appeal process.
Fusi and Nancy Motsamai were active members of our church in Woking and served as leaders in our youth and children’s work. They were also our close friends. My wife, the Revd Lucy Brierley, had married them, they had lived in our house for several months, and they regularly babysat for us. Nancy was generous and loving, with an unmistakable laugh and a mischievous streak, frequently allowing movie and popcorn nights with our kids to run well past bedtime.
We and other friends from church visited them several times during their month-long incarceration. When they were finally released, the judge at the bail hearing ruled that there had been no justifiable reason for their detention in the first place. Yet, even as they left court, an immigration official placed them in a holding area and tried to pressure them to give up and return to South Africa.
In recent weeks, headlines have centred on the mistreatment of the UK’s Windrush population. People who have lived, worked and paid taxes in the UK since the 1950s have been threatened with deportation. As the scale of the scandalous treatment came to light, Amber Rudd was forced to resign her position as Home Secretary. As a consequence, the public have been made aware (many for the first time) of the overtly hostile approach the Home Office has taken to immigrants, regardless of their legal status.
In reality, the ‘hostile environment’ policy had been in force long before Rudd’s tenure. Ten years ago, Fusi was on the receiving end of it…
This is an extract from an article that was published in the June 2018 edition of Reform