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Teen faces deportation nightmare

PUBLISHED: 00:55 22 June 2005 | UPDATED: 05:56 02 March 2010

A TEENAGE asylum seeker's foster family are furious today after being told his case was rushed through the system because they spoke to the press.

Elton Ismaili, 19, is currently being detained at the Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow which his foster father Kevin Harris describes as "nothing short of a prison.

A TEENAGE asylum seeker's foster family are furious today after being told his case was rushed through the system because they spoke to the press.

Elton Ismaili, 19, is currently being detained at the Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow which his foster father Kevin Harris describes as "nothing short of a prison."

As reported in yesterday's Evening Star, he was taken there overnight from Harwich on Friday with no prior warning.

Mr and Mrs Harris, of Bell Lane, Kesgrave, are now lodging an official complaint against immigration staff who they claim told them going to the press has resulted in Elton's case being fast-tracked.

Mrs Harris said: "I went with Elton to sign in at the police station the week before last and one of the immigration staff had a file of Elton's case. He pulled out a clipping from the paper, pointed at it and said 'big mistake'.

"Then when I rang up to ask why he had been detained this Thursday they said it was because of press coverage and because Elton was regarded as a 'high profile' case.

Mr Harris said: "Part of me feels so guilty that he is in there and it might be because of something we've done, but I'm glad I kicked up a fuss.

"I don't feel like we can do anymore damage now and I want people to know how they've acted."

Initially, it was thought Elton would probably be flown back to his home country of Kosovo on Thursday but the family are now unsure.

Mr Harris said: "It depends on whether they class him as long stay or short stay and they haven't told us yet."

Mr and Mrs Harris say they are very worried about how Elton is coping with the trauma of being detained.

Mr Harris said: "He tries to put on a brave face but we could see that his eyes were red raw from crying and his face is getting drawn."

Martin Davey, Evening Star news editor, said the suggestion someone should be singled out for trying to highlight their case is worrying.

"We at The Star, and the numerous readers who have written to us in support of Elton, have watched with disbelief as the authorities have continued to threaten to send this settled and hard-working young man back to a country he has virtually no ties with.

"Elton's family have shown amazing courage while faced with the nightmare of losing a member of their family and we are proud to have helped them bring Elton's case to the public's attention. The idea they could be persecuted for standing up for what they think is right is very worrying."

A spokesman for the Home Office said: "We cannot comment on individual cases but everyone is dealt with on a case by case basis and has nothing to do with whether people have been to the press or not.

"If people have been told this and put in a formal complaint then this would obviously be investigated.

The £47.5 million Colnbrook IRC is situated in Middlesex, close to Heathrow airport.

It opened in 2004 and has a capacity of 326 places.

Mr and Mrs Harris visited Elton there on Sunday and were disgusted by what they saw.

Mr Harris said: "We were only allowed in to a visiting area but he told us he is sharing a cell with one other person, who doesn't speak the same language.

"They have an open toilet, have to go to the loo in front of each other, and he's only allowed out for four hours a day.

"From the outside it's surrounded by huge barbed-wire fences and when you go in you have to show photo ID, have your thumb prints taken and be searched.

"To me, that's a prison."

A report by Amnesty International found that Colnbrook IRC is purportedly used to detain the more "difficult male detainees". The charity found it resembled a Category B prison in everything but name with extreme levels of noise on the landings. Detainees were locked in their rooms, which were cell-like, between 10pm and 7am.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: "Colnbrook is mainly twin en-suite rooms. There is a choice of meals for detainees and we are able to cater for specialist medical or religious diets.

"There is provision for TVs in the rooms, there is a large sports hall/gym together with a range of other activities.

"The centre is built to be physically secure and is robust. It houses a full spectrum of detainees. "Colnbrook also includes a facility for Customs use and a short term holding facility for the immigration service when they have picked people up in operations."

She added: "Detention is regrettable, but it is a very necessary element in the effective enforcement of immigration control, including tackling abuses of the asylum system and the need to remove those with no right to stay here.

"We do not detain people lightly. Each case is considered carefully on its own merits and the presumption in all cases continues to be in favour of granting temporary admission or release wherever possible."


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