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Indian man feared being kicked out of the EU after Home Office incorrectly branded him a criminal

An Indian man feared he would be kicked out of the EU after the Home Office incorrectly branded him a criminal in a “huge blunder” by the department.

Chit Kumar, 37, who legally lived, worked and paid taxes in the UK for five years before moving to Germany in 2018, was threatened with deportation by the Home Office last month despite not having set foot in the country for over a year.

The IT consultant was shocked when he was informed by a friend living at his former address in Bristol that a letter had arrived for him stating that he was an “overstayer” in the UK and that he was currently residing in the country illegally, making him “liable to administrative removal”.

Mr Kumar tried to contact the department by phone and email, but was unable to get through. “I tried the number on the website, but it was just giving so many options, with nothing relevant to me. I spent two hours on the phone. I emailed them and got no reply,” he said.

A week later, another letter was sent to his old address stating that he had been granted immigration bail, and that he was liable to be detained and must report to the Home Office on a particular day each month.

“It was like criminal charges, with my picture on it and everything. It was like I was a wanted person,“ said Mr Kumar. ”It was very scary. I didn’t want to be in their criminal database. I had done nothing. I lived in the UK legally; I left the country legally.

“I was scared that it would impact my current job, because I am living in the EU right now with my visa and my future opportunities. That was the scariest part, and I have never felt such a thing in my whole life. It was very traumatic. I was under psychological stress.”

The 37-year-old had arranged to travel around Greece, Malta and Cyprus during his Christmas break, but said the accusations meant he was constantly on edge and fearful that border officials in mainland Europe would arrest him on behalf of the Home Office.

“The biggest fear for me was what if I travel outside Germany and immigration controls at the borders stop me, because the UK Home Office may have informed other EU countries that this guy is hiding illegally. This was in my mind the whole time,” he said.

Eventually, more than a month later, Mr Kumar managed to reach a member of staff at the Home Office and explain the situation to them. Shortly after sending the department a copy of his passport and other documentation to prove their mistake, he received a letter of apology.

The letter, signed by an immigration caseworker on behalf of the home secretary, read: “We have now updated our records to confirm that you departed from the UK of your own accord […] We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused and you will have no further issues should you return to the UK in future.”

Mr Kumar said the way he had been treated by the Home Office was ‘inhumane’

Mr Kumar said he was relieved on receiving the letter, but that the saga had made him reluctant to live in the UK again, and pointed out that had his friend not been living at his former address, he could have remained on the Home Office’s database for immigration offenders.

“They would be looking for me. So many bad things could’ve happened,” he said, adding: “I’ve always lived with respect and dignity. In the UK I was giving meditation classes to homeless people for free at weekends. It’s not like I was misusing the system — I’m a highly qualified guy. I was paying high taxes, I was contributing to society and to the economy.

“Then you see these false criminal charges, and of course you can’t believe how they could do this. It is completely insane; it is inhumane. If they continue to treat us like this, people will never go to the country. It is giving the UK a very bad image. They are losing big skill sets.

“And just to imagine for someone more on the edge of society who is very vulnerable and mentally unstable, how would they have coped with this and resolved the situation?”

Why is the Home Office getting so many immigration decisions wrong?

Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott expressed dismay at the case, saying such “huge blunders” had become ”far too frequent” in Home Office immigration enforcement.  

“The culture this comes from is the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy and unless that ends we will continue to see huge errors, discrimination and lives sometimes ruined,” she added.

A Home Office spokesperson said the department had apologised to Mr Kumar “for any inconvenience”, adding: ”As soon as the Home Office verified his departure from the UK, our records were updated to reflect this.”

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