US PhD graduate detained in UK immigration removal centre

Paul Hamilton speaks of ‘heartbreaking’ detention by Home Office officials after leave to remain application refused

January 25, 2016
United Kingdom policemen standing by patrol car
Source: Alamy
Open up: Paul Hamilton first became aware that something was awry when immigration officials ‘knocked on my door and said they were arresting me’

An American who recently graduated from the University of Birmingham with a PhD has spoken of his shock at being locked up in an immigration removal centre after being refused permission to remain in the UK to work as a researcher.

Shakespeare scholar Paul Hamilton, who spoke to Times Higher Education from a cell at Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre in Lincolnshire, said that he had followed rules requiring him to apply for leave to remain within 10 days of the expiry of his visa. Applications cost £650.

Asked what was the first sign that something had gone wrong with the application, he said: “When they [immigration officials] knocked on my door and told me they were arresting me.”

Dr Hamilton, who graduated from Birmingham in July 2015 after completing a doctorate on Shakespeare’s influence on American literature in the 19th century, was detained on 17 January after immigration officials visited his home in Stratford-upon-Avon. 

He was eventually released on 27 January, but must still leave the country.

He said: “All they had to do was serve me papers and say: ‘I’m sorry your application was rejected – you need to leave the country.’ But to be arrested is just unbelievable.”

It had been “absolutely heartbreaking to be arrested and thrown into a cage…in the back of a police vehicle in front of my neighbours”, he added.

Dr Hamilton was taken to Leamington Spa police station. “The sergeant there refused to process me because he said this was completely ridiculous. And he got into an argument with the immigration officer that went on the entire afternoon,” Dr Hamilton said.

A Home Office notice given to Dr Hamilton, seen by THE, states that he was detained because “your removal from the United Kingdom is imminent” and “you do not have enough close ties (eg. family or friends) to make it likely that you will stay in one place”.

“The official reason given was that I don’t have family in the area, which is the position every single international student is in…So if you [as an overseas student] apply for further leave to remain, it means that basically they can just arrest you,” he said.

Dr Hamilton said that he had previously booked an airline ticket to the US with an open date in case the application should be refused, which he believes showed that he was ready to leave the UK.

He also said that friends had since raised £2,000 for his bail application. “The idea that I don’t have friends in the area is just ludicrous,” he added.

Dr Hamilton said that only in the process of being detained was he served with a Home Office notice stating that his application for leave to remain had been refused. The notice, seen by THE, is dated 9 December 2015.

The 42-year-old, originally from California, said that when detained he was in the process of applying to the Wellcome Trust and the Leverhulme Trust for a research fellowship that he hoped could be hosted at Kingston University, given that he had helped to organise conferences held by the Kingston Shakespeare Seminar.

Ewen Fernie, professor and chair of Shakespeare studies at Birmingham, who was Dr Hamilton’s PhD supervisor, said that he had been “shocked” by news of the detention.

“As well as being a morally serious and sensitive person, Paul is a committed student and teacher of literature who wishes to make an academic career for himself in the country where he has latterly been educated,” Professor Fernie said. 

Dr Hamilton said that although Morton Hall staff had been “very humane”, the “procedures are all incredibly humiliating”.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Mr Hamilton’s application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK was refused on the grounds that he did not satisfy the relevant criteria under the immigration rules. He has the option of appealing this decision once he has left the UK.  

“The Immigration Act 2014 clearly states that a person who does not have leave to remain in the UK is liable for removal. Enforcement action may be taken to remove these individuals.

“All cases are carefully considered on their individual merits, in line with the immigration rules and based on evidence provided by the applicant.”


Print headline: US PhD graduate held at immigration removal site

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Reader's comments (4)

This is just outrageous, all the PhD graduates will be considered at risk of overstay or will be arrested when leave to remain will be rejected. United Kingdom is governed by a bunch of racist sick people, the worst part is that they're using immigrant's sons from India, China, and Pakistan born in the UK as Home Office officers to arrest people with the same background. Just an abomination. I hope United States protect their citizens and apply the same restrictive measures towards British citizens. Let's hope all the students can do something to stop this nightmare. It's getting out of hand.
The action by the Home Ministry is absolutely ridiculous. Foreign students who pursue their education in the UK not only pay much higher fees and do perform academically well. I have a daughter who is studying in Scotland, which requires her to complete her Under Graduate Studies in 4 years. She is immediately onto her Post Graduate Studies, reading her Masters at the same Scottish university on their scholarship. She has already been offered conditional offers at a few British universities to pursue her Doctorate studies. The UK Government allows foreign students a maximum study visa of 8 years. Her Masters will be completed in August 2016, and she is expected to start her Doctorate studies immediately. With the 8 year limitation, she would not be able to finish her thesis in the UK, where her supervisors, reference materials and research facilities are. How ridiculous can the authorities be when passing such laws without proper information from the universities themselves. There are areas where the Home Ministry officers can focus their attention on without harassing legitimate students.
I am a senior Australian. I was harassed two out of the three times I have visited the UK and I found the attitude of the border officers to be appalling on all three of my entries. I now live in London to be with my wife who is a senior intensive care doctor at a central London hospital. One would not think that Australia once had very close cultural, ideological and trade relationships with the UK. Nor would one think that the British queen is Australia’s head of state (unfortunately). I can remember when my older relatives considered Britain to be the” home” country. This was not that long ago. It would seem that these border guards are chosen (or worse, self-selected) to be offensive, difficult and I’m sorry to have to say it, but, stupid. With the rise of right wing populism around the world, I feel Australia is headed in the same direction too.
Comment from the States.... when I first heard about EU citizens being treated on par with the Migrants on the US Southern Border, I was thinking I was have reservations visiting post-brexit UK, once always worked for a UK based company..... stories like this only reaffirm those reservations. To the Commenter above regarding the US situation, the US ICE service has illegally detained its own citizens on a regular basis, a veteran LAPD police officer was detained and sexually abused by the CBP last month. Regarding Brits, a family was apprehended illegally crossing in from Canada not long ago and claimed mistreatment, though thats debatable to a point.