A 53-year-old disabled British man who was born in the UK and says he has never travelled abroad has been held in an immigration removal centre for the past four months, the Guardian has learned.
Paul Tate is in a wheelchair after a stroke and has diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure. He applied for bail last week but the judge who considered his application refused to free him, saying: “He says he is a British citizen but has done nothing to prove it.”
Tate’s solicitor has begun legal proceedings against the Home Office for unlawful detention and says his client is desperate to be released.
The Guardian has recently reported on cases of people born overseas who have lived most of their lives in the UK but are facing removal because their immigration status was not formalised decades ago.
However, Tate insists he was born in Bangor, north Wales, and that he has never left the UK. Human rights campaigners and lawyers have expressed concern that British citizens who may not have a passport are being targeted for removal by immigration officials.
Home Office sources say Tate told them he was a US citizen, but he denies ever saying this. According to his lawyers, the Home Office made a request to US authorities for an emergency travel document for him in December 2017.
In January the US refused to provide one, saying it had no record of Tate being a US citizen. However, more than two months later Tate is still locked up.
He is being held at Morton Hall in Lincolnshire, a 392-unit immigration removal centre run by the prison service for the Home Office, after serving a 12-month prison sentence for grievous bodily harm.
During last week’s bail hearing by videolink, Tate said: “I will die in here.” Had he not been held in an immigration removal centre after completing his sentence, Tate would have been able to access support from the probation service to reintegrate into society and reduce his risk of reoffending.
Tate’s name was changed from that on his birth certificate when he was adopted as a child. His solicitor is working with members of Tate’s family to obtain documents to prove he is a British citizen.
The human rights lawyer Shoaib Khan asked the Home Office how many cases it had of British nationals being detained in immigration removal centres. The Home Office told Khan that although British nationals were not subject to immigration control, there may be some cases where they were detained while their identity was established, but it could not provide a number of these cases because the information was not recorded centrally.
Tate’s solicitor, Hamish Arnott, of Bhatt Murphy solicitors, said his client insisted he was a British citizen with no connection to any other country and had never left the UK.
“The notion of him being removable is fanciful. He is taking legal proceedings to obtain his release,” Arnott said.
Celia Clarke, the director of the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees, said: “The complete lack of oversight of decisions to detain and to maintain detention, coupled with the avowedly hostile environment, means that anyone with any perceived connection with any other country, be they long-term residents or even British citizens, is now fair game for detention and deportation. This is completely scandalous and the only way to stop it is to end detention completely.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We expect those with no basis of stay to leave voluntarily. Where they do not we will enforce their removal – this includes foreign criminals of whom we returned almost 6,000 last year.”
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