Author: James Cartledge
A 71-year-old grandmother and distant relative to the Queen and King John is facing deportation after her immigration bid was knocked back
Brenda Ackerman is a South African national, but has not lived there since 2006 and followed her daughter’s family to the UK five years ago.
But despite two applications to remain, her latest bid was refused with the Home Office writing to her on April 26 stating she must now go back.
The former veterinary surgery clerk has also never claimed benefits in the UK, since arriving in 2013, and has paid an annual £1,000 advance to cover any NHS charges – despite having health insurance.
Her father Clifford Brown, who died in 2012, fought against Nazi Germany as part of the Allies’ South African contingent.
Her ancestors originally emigrated from the UK in 1820.
But despite her immediate – and distant – family ties to the UK, the Home Office has said her application as a family dependent was refused “as it did not meet the requirements of immigration rules”.
Mrs Ackerman has been living with her daughter Candice Gordon in Worcestershire , who has now launched a fresh legal bid to keep the family together.
Mrs Gordon – who is married to a British national, and successfully got residency in 2014 – said her mother was no burden to the British state.
The businesswoman said: “As a South African, we would never have anything given to us.
“The welfare system doesn’t exist there – so we don’t expect it, and that’s how we have always lived our lives.
“It’s the type of people we are.
“There’s never been a case of expecting anything from anyone, and we don’t ask for anything for mum.
“I would be mortified if anyone felt they’d have to support my mother and me – it’s ingrained in us.”
The pensioner said: “Even when we go to the cinema, we don’t even pay for a pensioner’s ticket.”
Mrs Ackerman and her late husband moved from South Africa to join Mrs Gordon and her family in Dubai in 2006, where they then lived and worked.
There, Mrs Gordon said they lived “as a family unit”, but when her British husband lost his finance job they decided to bring forward a long-held plan to settle in England.
That started their lengthy immigration process which has witnessed two unsuccessful applications and an immigration tribunal hearing.
The family have also submitted health assessments for infirm Mrs Ackerman and the impact the potential break-up has had on her oldest granddaughter’s mental health as evidence to the Home Office, to no avail.
Mrs Gordon, 45, described the system as a “Catch 22”.
She said: “You have to prove you’re a family unit, but if you don’t fit the financial criteria, they say ‘she’ll be a financial drain so she can’t stay’.
“We confidently showed them (the Home Office) that we do satisfy the financial criteria and the response was ‘we noted that, and so you can afford to take care of her – in South Africa’.
“So it’s Catch 22 – either way, we lose.”
Mrs Gordon added: “In one letter we received, it effectively said that if we were so keen to look after her, maybe we should move to South Africa.”
She said her elderly mother was sent an immigration bail notice following her first failed application, that left her feeling “under house arrest” as it stated she could be deported at any time.
The refusal letter itself also erroneously stated there was “nothing to prevent you (Mrs Ackerman) exercising your right to a family and private life in Nigeria”.
Pointing to the inaccuracy, Mrs Gordon said: “The Home Office aren’t even really considering the case properly, they’re just sending out generic letters”.
Immigration rules mean that in a typical case the person applying to stay, would first need to leave the UK, to re-apply for entry.
However, they can apply on the basis of family or private life, but must show there would be very significant obstacles returning to their home country.
Mrs Ackerman’s family have said that she is unable to walk far without an aid, and has no immediate relatives in South Africa to look after her.
The family are now applying for a judicial review and are raising a petition.
Mrs Gordon has also tabled an open invitation to new Home Secretary Sajid Javid, whose Bromsgrove constituency sits in the county, to come to her home in Lower Broadheath “for tea”.
She said: “He was so concerned and upset about Windrush, being a second generation migrant.
“He lost his father, as I have.
“I am facing the situation he feared he might, but my family faces a very real threat of being split-up.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “While in the UK as a visitor, Ms Ackerman applied for leave to remain on the basis of her family/private life.
“This application was refused as it did not meet the requirements of the immigration rules, a decision which was backed up by an independent immigration judge.”