Home Office finally lets British man sleeping on streets in Europe come home – but charges him £100

Officials rang Fatush Lala to tell him he could come home hours after The Independent reported his plight

Jon Stone
Brussels
,May Bulman
Thursday 13 February 2020 19:09
Comments
British national stranded in Belgium after his passport was revoked

A British man left sleeping on foreign streets after being locked out of the UK by the Home Office has finally been allowed to return – but been charged £100 to replace the passport they confiscated.

Fatush Lala, 33, has been living rough in Brussels for more than three weeks after UK authorities voided his citizenship and blocked his passport while he was abroad on holiday with his family.

But hours after The Independent reported on Mr Lala's plight he received a phonecall from officials saying he could come back.

"I went to the British embassy and they printed out the passport for me. But first I had to pay a fee of £100 for it," said Mr Lala, who has lived in Britain since he was 14 and naturalised.

The British national had previously gone to the UK embassy in the city to seek help, only to be told his British passport – the only one he has ever owned – was no longer valid and have it confiscated from him, leaving him stateless for weeks.

Asked as he waited for his train home whether he had been provided an explanation by the Home Office, Mr Lala told The Independent: "No, I'm still waiting for that."

The department did not notify Mr Lala his passport had been cancelled before he left the country, instead sending a letter to an address he had never lived it. It then did not stop him leaving the country, only preventing him from getting back in when he tried to board a flight home from Brussels.

The Independent contacted the UK embassy in Belgium for comment but was told they could not comment on specific cases. The Home Office has said it does not comment on specific cases, and was also approached for further comment as Mr Lala returned home.

The Home Office's original state rationale for cancelling the passport was that Mr Lala's naturalisation application was made on the basis that he was born in 1986 in Serbia, but that the department believes he was born in 1985 in Albania. The department did not explain how it had come to that conclusion.

Mr Lala actually missed his train home on Thursday night as his temporary travel document was subjected to intensive scrutiny. He boarded the following service.

"So I got the ticket, I got everything sorted, I turned up here [at the station] quite early - but they decided to get me a thorough check and I was delayed and missed the train. So now I'm on the next one," he told The Independent.

Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy, who had been advocating for his constituent, said: "I am pleased that Fatush should now be allowed to return to his home of twenty years to make a legal defence of his British citizenship.

Fatush Lala was sleeping rough in Belgium for three weeks

"However, it should not require press coverage for the Home Office act on such a gross injustice with basic decency. It is appalling that he has been forced to spend three weeks stateless, stranded and homeless in Brussels due to a Home Office blunder.

"Over and over again, suffering is being caused by the callousness and incompetence at the Home Office."

Mr Lala first arrived to the UK as a minor after being split from his family during the Serbian conflict. He went into foster care and attended school, college and university in the country, before being granted British citizenship in his early twenties.

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