Author: Nicola Slawson
A former mayor of Ipswich, who has lived in the UK since 1979, has been denied UK citizenship.
Inga Lockington, who has been a Liberal Democrat councillor for 19 years and served as mayor in 2007, moved to the UK from Denmark in 1979, when she married her British husband, Tim.
She was given indefinite leave to remain, which was stamped in her passport at the time.
Following the EU referendum, Lockington decided to apply for UK citizenship, a decision that was also influenced by changes to Danish law that meant she wouldn’t lose her Danish citizenship if she became a naturalised Briton.
The Home Office rejected her application, which cost her £1,282, at the end of January on the basis it “cannot be satisfied” that she was permanently a resident in the UK.
Lockington said her first reaction to the decision was shock and she had to reread the letter several times to be sure it said what she thought. She has chosen to speak out now in solidarity with the Windrush victims, and to try to highlight the breakdown of the immigration system.
“When I got the letter I felt so rejected and upset,” she said. “My husband was absolutely furious. I had planned to put an appeal in, which they said there was no time limit for, but then of course the Windrush scandal came out and it really just brought it home what a difficult situation some people will be in. It really was painful to read about all the people.
“I just felt I’ve got to tell my story because it’s so sad how the Home Office seems to try to refuse people if they can. I think most people applying are doing it for the right reasons but the Home Office assumes we’re all bad. It’s the hostile environment Theresa May has created.”
She said her rejection was on the basis of her not having a permanent residency card, which has been obligatory since November 2016.
Lockington said she had never been told she needed it and is angry that the Home Office, who had all her contact details, did not phone her to ask any questions or tell her she needed the card.
She said: “That would have been a friendlier thing to do rather than just send a letter refusing me. You pay all that money and then they don’t do a proper job.”
She said she took for granted that she would be granted citizenship but doesn’t want special treatment because of her public service. “I just want to be treated fairly because I want everybody to be treated the same way,” she said.
The MP for Ipswich, Sandy Martin, said he had tried to ask Theresa May at prime minister’s questions to explain why Lockington’s application had been rejected, but was not called on to speak.
He said he would be meeting Lockington next week to discuss her case, which “raised several questions” about the application process and the level of support given to applicants.
Sal Brinton, a Liberal Democrat peer and president of the party, expressed her outrage on social media, saying. “I have known Inga for close to 20 years, she’s had indefinite leave to remain in her passport since 1979. Hostile environment for lawful EU citizens already here.
“She is an EU citizen married to a UK resident and does not need any document certifying permanent residence. However, she does already have indefinite leave to remain in her passport from 1979, which they’ve ignored. Hostile environment at work. Disgraceful.”
She added in a later tweet: “First Windrush, now EU citizens.”
The Home Office said it would be contacting Lockington on Wednesday to discuss the issue, suggesting there was a problem with her application.
But Richard Thompson, of Ipswich Liberal Democrats, said: “It’s just ridiculous. If someone who has been a councillor for 19 years can’t get the paperwork right, it suggests there is something wrong with the paperwork.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office said they respected Lockington’s public service and would be “happy to discuss the various routes to citizenship” available to her.