Lauded therapist Harley Miller still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

The specialist children’s counsellor finds herself stuck in a seemingly unending struggle to remain in the UK the Australian is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law

The frontline in the legal battle between the Home Office and London’s migrants sits on an industrial estate opposite the deliveries entrance to a Tesco superstore.

This is York House, an Asylum and Immigration Tribunal hearing centre not far from Heathrow Airport – its charmless location presumably chosen to make it convenient for swift deportations.

It is here that specialist therapist Mariam Miller came to appeal a decision to send her back to Australia after nine years of work with vulnerable children for the NHS.

Ms Miller, 48, whose friends and campaigners use her middle name, Harley, had not expected to have to fight so hard to stay in the UK.

She was highly skilled, paid her taxes, had two masters degrees and a track record of making a difference with some of the most troubled children in the country.

When she was told last November that she had just two weeks to pack up her stuff and leave, Ms Miller’s battle to stay in Britain was immediately seized on by campaigners on all sides of the immigration debate as a sign that the system is not fit for purpose.

Her case, reported in The Independent, became a cause célèbre, with more than 30,000 people sharing a Facebook campaign page for her to stay and 10,000 signing a petition to the Home Secretary.

In that precarious fortnight in November she managed to lodge an appeal and yesterday was the court date she had waited more than six months to arrive. In the intervening time her life has been in limbo, as she has been barred from working and forced to use up her life’s savings on legal fees and survival. Worse than the financial worry has been the state of constant anxiety that her life in Britain was about to be pulled apart.

At 9.30am yesterday Ms Miller thought the wait was over. She met her barrister and 10 witnesses – including her partner of 17 months, Chris Morris, her friends, colleagues and even the mother of a former patient – at York House, ready to fight her case. But the wait turned out to have only just begun. Although 20 judges were sitting yesterday, the tribunal was so oversubscribed that Ms Miller’s was one of half a dozen or so cases on the float list, meaning she was given no specific time, but had to wait for a gap in the schedule.

Among those waiting with Ms Miller in the tribunal’s snack bar was Cath, a 47-year-old mother from west Kent who first realised that her daughter’s therapist was facing deportation when she read about it in The Independent. “I just thought it was outrageous,” said Cath, who did not give her surname to protect her daughter. “Mariam was someone who helped my family really tangibly within mental health services. We’ve seen lots of therapists because my 16-year-old daughter has Asperger’s and anorexia, but Mariam was looking at the whole picture. It enabled us to chip away at things that gave me the knowledge and power to help make progress. I’d be horrified politically anyway [at the idea of her being deported], but on the level of someone in the NHS making a difference I was embarrassed and horrified that we were treating her like that as a nation. The idea that there isn’t someone available for families in that turmoil is terrible. If you think how pushed the service is, it’s a disaster.”

Ms Miller first came to Britain on a spousal visa with her Italian husband 10 years ago, after several years living around Europe. When he left her in 2008, she told the border agency what had happened and they wrote to her confirming she could stay until the end of that spousal visa, which ran out in 2011.

She then applied for discretionary leave to remain, but when UKBA got back to her two years later, it claimed she should never have stayed after the marriage ended.

Her appeal is based on the argument that removing her from Britain would be an affront to her right to a private life, since she has no network of friends in Australia and has built her life and work in the UK. She has not lived in Australia for 25 years and says “you can’t compare the two countries” because only “one of them is home”. An only child, she says her friends are her family – and they are almost all in Britain. Born in Sydney, she now has only one relative in Australia: her 80-year-old mother.

One close friend, Rebecca Turner, 39, a firefighter from St Albans in Hertfordshire, who first made friends with Harley in a library nearly 10 years ago, said of Ms Miller being sent back: “It’d be like a part of me being ripped out.”

She added: “You discover a lot about you own country when things like this happen. You’d think the UK was better than this and had more heart. There’s a certain integrity you’d expect in the system and what you find is quite shocking.”

The wait for a hearing slot drags on beyond lunchtime, until at quarter past three the clerk returns to say anyone still waiting to see a judge will now have to have their cases adjourned until another date can be found next month.

For Miller, the news is devastating.

“It’s unbelievable to sit in that room for six hours and now have to go through it all again,” she says, close to tears.

“There’s also the financial strain and the added legal fees which is a huge burden now. But it’s the whole sitting and fretting all over again for another month that will be the worst. It feels like pulling my fingernails out one by one would be easier than this.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders