in the back
A Home Office as hostile as ever
Deportation, Issue 1470
Thom Podgoretsky, who has lived in the UK for more than 50 years and has four children and seven grandchildren – all UK nationals
EVEN after the courts have found that bungling immigration officials wrongly wrecked a pensioner’s rights to stay in the UK, the “hostile” Home Office is refusing to correct its mistakes.

In 2015, Eye 1407 reported the unfortunate case of West Country musician and performer Thomas Podgoretsky. Born in California, he has lived in the UK for more than 50 years, once ran a successful entertainment business and has four children and seven grandchildren – all UK nationals. However, in May 2015 he was suddenly given 72 hours’ notice of deportation.

Immigration officials said his prolonged trips to the US (once when he suffered a heart attack while abroad and another when caring for his sick mother) had breached his unlimited “right to remain” in the UK, which allowed him to live, work and come and go as he pleased.

Visa blunder
However, as the immigration appeal court found, what had actually happened was that in 2004, on Thom’s return to the UK from the US, an official had wrongly stamped his passport with only a visitor’s visa – something Thom did not spot. That error, said the court, subsequently “tainted” all subsequent dealings the 73 year old had with the Home Office, including the events that led to the deportation threat.

While he used his (now exhausted) savings to fight to stay in the UK and relied heavily on his children to support him as best they could, the visa blunder also led to Thom being wrongly denied access to certain public funds for free NHS treatment – despite his having paid UK tax and national insurance nearly all his working life. To add insult to injury, when he ran up NHS medical bills of more than £1,500, officials refused to consider his leave to stay because of his outstanding debt to the NHS!

Last year, the court finally ruled that under the European Convention on Human Rights, Thom’s Article 8 rights to family life had been breached. This was because of the length of time he has lived in the UK and the extent of the family and private life he has established here. But that, alas, is not the end of Thom’s stress and legal battles.

Despite the court ruling, the Home Office has refused to reinstate the indefinite leave to remain that he was first granted January 1973, giving him only a 30-month migrant visa to work – again without access to public funds. Thom does, however, still draw a UK state pension and live in a council house. But in common with victims of the Windrush scandal, the Home Office appears to have destroyed its own immigration records while contesting Thom’s documents that prove at least 20 years of continuous residency. His fight continues.

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- Cliff Richard: Mystery of the BBC’s original source
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Private Eye Issue 1469