His twin brother Darren Roberts was warned that he was at risk of deportation to Grenada – the country where his mother was born – when he served his own prison sentence, according to his partner.
The brothers were taken care of by social services when they were 13 years old after the death of cancer in rapid succession from their mother and later from the uncle who cared for them after his death. Their father had moved abroad before their mother died and they have had no contact with him for decades. None of the parents had British nationality.
The twins’ siblings said they believed Ealing’s social services in west London were negligent for failing to organize citizenship when they were children.
After an unhappy and disturbed period during their adolescence, when the brothers were moved between a series of unsuccessful foster care, Darrell was found guilty of serious bodily harm. He was a minor and was still in the care of the health care system. His lawyer describes him as vulnerable because of his young age after conviction and his traumatic childhood. Towards the end of a six-year sentence, he received a notice of eviction.
He says he was shocked to learn that he risks being deported. “It was heartbreaking. I finished my sentence; I expected to be released, ”he said, speaking from the prison. He tried to explain to prison staff that he should not be deported.
“It’s mentally exhausting; stress is useless. I have gray hair and I am only 24 years old. He said the prison staff laughed when they were told that he was born in the UK and did not seem to believe it.
The eviction notice states: “Our records show that you have no legal status in the UK. The Home Secretary said “the eviction is good for the public good and therefore it is in the public interest that you be removed from the UK immediately,” the letter said.
Darrell Roberts has also been offered a grant to allow him to “return home” under the facilitated return program, with a reintegration package worth £ 1,500 if he accepts repatriation. “I told them that I was born here that I had been in elementary and high school here. They were not friendly. When I tried to speak to the officers, they said it was out of their control, ”he said.
The Ministry of the Interior automatically issues an eviction notice to anyone without nationality who has been sentenced for a reasonably serious offense with a custodial sentence of more than 12 months. British citizenship has a good character, which will not be fulfilled if an applicant has been sentenced to a long prison term, even if he was born in the United Kingdom. There are no figures on the number of people born in this country who are deported each year.
Darrell’s twin brother remains in prison for a separate offense of grievous bodily harm. Darren’s partner, who asked not to be named, said he had spoken to him twice about his concerns after being told he was at risk of being deported. He told him about six months ago that prison staff had warned him that he would be sent to Grenada at the end of his prison term.
The couple have a five-year-old son together, also born in London. “He said it made no sense and asked me to make arrangements to bring our son to visit him. He was shocked, ”she said. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said that no eviction notice had yet been issued, but that letters were generally sent near the end of a sentence.
Although detainees can appeal against expulsion orders, the grounds for appeal for those sentenced to more than four years are limited.
The twins’ younger sister Freya Valie Roberts, a student at the University of Bristol, said: “The plight of Darrell and Darren highlights the systemic racism that has taken hold in our institutions in Britain … During their stay, the social protection system neglected their duty to nationalize boys. My brothers and sisters and I are their closest immediate family. To remove them from their home would be to separate them from the only family they have. ”
The family was dismayed by the apparent error of the Ministry of the Interior in the proposed destination for the eviction. Darrell Roberts’ immigration lawyer Syed Naqvi, partner at ITN solicitors, said: “The Home Office official does not seem to appreciate that Dominica and the Dominican Republic are two different countries.”
Naqvi added: “The attempt to evict the Interior Ministry in this case is a simplistic response to a very complex set of circumstances. Darrell is a vulnerable adult born in the United Kingdom and having lived all his life in the United Kingdom. He had an extremely traumatic childhood: he lost his mother at a young age, he then spent a considerable part of his childhood in social services and was abandoned by a dysfunctional social protection system. ”
Andrew Sperling, Managing Director of SL5 Legal, Darrell’s prison lawyer, said: “It is so cruel and unfair that two young men who spent most of their childhood in care be treated like this. I am not easily shocked, but I found this case so shocking. ”
Children born in the UK are eligible for citizenship, but there is an application process, with attached costs that have increased significantly over the past 20 years. The project to register children as British citizens has highlighted the problems faced by people born in the UK or brought here as young children, but whose guardians have not applied for citizenship for them; they cannot apply for university loans and, if they commit a serious offense, they risk expulsion.
Celia Clarke, director of bail for immigration detainees, said: “Having been taken care of during childhood, social services should have ensured that they became British citizens, to whom they were entitled to. It is quite appalling that the Interior Ministry is taking eviction measures, which would have torn them from the only house they know to find their way in a totally foreign country when they have lived here all their lives . The automatic eviction regime is insensitive, cruel and must be ended. ”
A spokesperson for Ealing’s board said attempts have been made to help the twins naturalize. “The Ealing Council Children’s Services have engaged on several occasions with Darren and Darrell, their lawyers, and the prison service to provide all of the documents necessary to apply for immigrant status, in the case of Darrell in May 2020 , but none of the young men signed the documentation to allow it to progress. ”
The board said it would continue to try to help with this as part of their child care until the twins reach 25 years later this year. The process is unlikely to be straightforward, due to the good character test.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said, “Detainees who receive a notice of eviction have the opportunity to provide reasons why they should be exempt from the eviction. All statements made will be carefully reviewed before any action is taken. “