An American Shakespeare scholar who was arrested without warning after applying to remain in the UK has been released from an immigration detention centre after his case caused outrage across the academic world.
Dr Paul Hamilton, 42, said he was “hugely relieved” to be freed from Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre after 10 days in custody, but immediately condemned the Home Office as “completely brazen, cynical and unapologetic”.
As reported in The Independent, Dr Hamilton said that the first he knew about the refusal of his application to remain in the UK was when there was a knock on his door and he was arrested at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The US citizen said he was arrested on the grounds that he might abscond to evade deportation – despite having already spent $1,200 (£842) of his own money on an open-date plane ticket to be used if his application failed.
Dr Hamilton added that he was hardly likely to go undercover as “a car washer in Cardiff” when his whole reason for wanting to stay had been to press ahead with his academic career, having spent eight-and-a-half years in the UK researching, organising conferences and making contacts.
Dr Hamilton believes the only reason he was released was because of a growing outcry in the press. As more than 150 academics – many in the UK, but some as far afield as Hong Kong and Brazil – condemned Dr Hamilton’s treatment, the Home Office finally issued a statement on the case on Wednesday afternoon, at about the same time he was released.
It said: “The Immigration Act 2014 clearly states that a person who does not have leave to remain in the UK is liable for removal. Enforcement action may be taken to remove these individuals.”
The Home Office also issued guidance that although a person must be notified of their liability to be removed from the UK, “this can be on the same date as an enforcement visit”.
Making no mention of the fact that Dr Hamilton bought his return plane ticket months ago, the guidance added: “We encourage people with no right to be in the UK to return voluntarily. Mr Hamilton is now following this course of action.”
As he was being driven home after his release, Dr Hamilton said the Home Office statement was “unbelievable”. He added: “That they are completely brazen, unapologetic and cynical in their response is newly shocking to me.”
The academic claimed the Home Office wanted “to bully people... it’s like speaking to a bulldozer coming at you. There is no sense of proportion; of reasonable use of power.”
But the former teacher said it had been his “dream” to study Shakespeare in the UK and he still loved England.
“It’s just a tiny fragment of the bureaucracy that is intransigent. Even the people processing me told me they felt terrible about it. One police officer said: ‘I don’t want to [do this]. This is unjust.’
Dr Hamilton will now fly to the US on 1 February. He said that because of his detention he had missed the deadline for applying for a research grant that would have allowed him to work with a leading UK Shakespeare scholar.
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