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Meet The Woman Detained In Yarl's Wood Centre After Living In The UK For 18 Years

Doniele came to the UK as a teenager in 1998. 17 years later, she was taken from her family, detained in Colnbrook and Yarl’s Wood detention centres, and is being threatened with deportation. On 12th March, thousands of protesters travelled to Bedfordshire, demanding for the government to #ShutDownYarlsWood and other detention centres. I spoke to Doniele about her experiences.

  “I have never been in trouble with the law, I have always trusted authority”

"I was born in St Vincent and the Grenadines and grew up with my family. My dad worked as the Director of the Ministry of Social Development in St Vincent and moved to the UK in 1997 to work with the Commonwealth Secretariat. We joined him in 1998. I was 19 at the time, but we were a close knit family and we all lived together, so there was no way my parents were going to leave me all by myself! In St Vincent, where job prospects were terrible and unemployment was high - we came here to make a better life for ourselves.

"In 2005, I applied for naturalisation as a British citizen but unfortunately my application was rejected. This was despite the fact that my mum had applied for herself and my younger siblings and their application was successful. In the rejection letter, I was told to wait 10 years to apply. In my head, wrongly or rightly, I interpreted that to mean 10 years from their decision, the date of the letter, but the lawyers have now explained that they meant 10 years from the date that I entered the UK.

"In June 2015, I went with my lawyer to apply for Leave to Remain, however, I was not informed that the rules had changed. Previous to April of that year, you had to have been in the UK for 14 years, but it has been changed to 20 years. On 23rd October, I received a letter from the Home Office informing me that my application was under consideration. However, on 22nd November, I was at home getting ready to go to church when there was a knock on the door. My dad called me and said “There are immigration officers at the door”.