A Jamaican national was awaiting the outcome of his application to remain in the UK when he was unexpectedly swooped upon by seven immigration enforcement officers.

James Matthews, who says he has been wrongly detained ahead of a deportation flight, is launching legal action against the Home Office.

He was awaiting the outcome of his application for leave to remain when seven immigration officers stormed into his home, claiming that he was in the country illegally, before he was taken to Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre (IRC).

A 33-year-old, from Ilford, in east London and a former banker at Jamaica National Bank, he applied for leave to remain on the basis of his relationship with a British citizen in July 2020, but the Home Office said this application was refused in February. He arrived in the UK in 2019, on a visitor’s visa, and was unable to return to Jamaica at the time it expired in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, while travel to and from Jamaica was suspended.

In a pre-action letter sent to the Home Office by his solicitor, it requested his immediate removal from detention, the cancellation of his deportation order, a copy of the refusal decision, details of where, how and when the refusal decision was served on their client - and a speedy response. The Home Office was said to have failed to respond by the deadline, with Mr Matthews’ solicitors set to take further action.

“I’ve abided by every single rule, Mr Matthews said. “How can I be an ‘overstayer’ when the Home Office hasn’t responded to my application to remain here? As far as I was concerned, I have an active application. I’m used to having my freedom and am feeling traumatised by this experience.

“When they were banging the front door and then I heard someone say my name, I was shocked. I’ve never committed a crime in either this country or Jamaica.”

Solicitor Naga Kandiah said: “Our client has done everything in his power to comply with the rules; the Home Office have failed to justify their inhumane and cruel decision to detain him and put him on the charter flight.

“Mr Matthews arrived in the UK legally and his permission to be in the UK was extended until 31 July 2020 because of the pandemic. He applied to extend his leave to remain in July 2020 before his visa expired.

“There is no suggestion that he has any criminal convictions. It appears that a decision has not been provided to our client, which is confirmed by his previous representative who completed the application for him”.

“I’m praying that God will bring me through,” Mr Matthews said. “I’ve been praying, the lawyer is working and I’m hoping this will conquer all.”

His fiancée says the gravity of the situation has been difficult for the couple to cope with, saying that she believes that there racism was very much at play in respect of his treated.