Woman left in limbo for a decade because home office lost her passport uk news the guardian data recovery plan

Life became much harder after 2012, she says, because of the hostile environment policy that involved a crackdown on illegal immigrants. Kate could not work in Britain legally and had no right to rent. The Home Office urged her to try to get a replacement passport, but when she attempted to do so, the embassy of her home country, which is plagued by war, said there was no data about her.

“The consul at the embassy in my home country said there was a name but no picture, and without that they did not know who I was,” she says. “The photo may have been deliberately deleted, and even if that wasn’t what happened, it’s not my fault there’s no picture.

Despite multiple attempts to resolve her situation, including the Home Office writing to the embassy of her home country to explain that it lost the passport, nothing seemed to work.

Kate has missed family funerals as a result. “My uncle was like a brother to me. He died in 2015 but I could not return home for the funeral,” she says. “My best friend died last year. It has been a nightmare.

“It left me powerless for a decade, with no control of my life.” Kate says her family had had high hopes for her. “I came to Britain at 22. I was so excited to learn English. I wanted to do that and then return home to work for my uncle.” At that point she felt confident she would succeed. “I felt like I could move mountains.”

Kate is now taking antidepressants and has had health issues brought on by stress. “I am a shadow of the person I was when I arrived here. I used to be bubbly and always smiling. I used to be really very confident, and people had hopes about me and what I could achieve, but now I am nothing. I feel like a failure.”

Two days after the Guardian contacted the Home Office, the department admitted Kate had wrongly been treated as an illegal immigrant for a decade and had always had leave to remain. A Home Office spokesperson said: “We will work with [Kate] and her lawyers to support her in obtaining a new passport and in making an application for further leave to remain.”

“This acknowledgement is welcome, though long overdue. Kate still needs a document showing her legal entitlement to live in the UK. I hope to hear from the Home Office about this over the coming days so that Kate can start to recover from her 10-year ordeal.”

The news is a huge relief to Kate, but she still feels angry. “I have been tortured for 10 years,” she says. “I am now 36 and have no career and nothing, no life. I just hope I can start something now, although it may take time to resolve it all. I was at the bottom of a well and struggling day and night. I didn’t see a solution for so long.

“I came to Britain because I thought it was an open and liberal country. It would be such a shame to kill that idea … My message to the government: don’t treat people like numbers. My life was completely destroyed.” Ed: ‘The emotional strain was enormous’

The Guardian has seen the letter from the Home Office, dated 3 May, which includes a paragraph that reads: “The respondent is regretfully experiencing difficulties in locating the Home Office file containing the respondent’s bundle and appellant’s appeal bundle before the first tier tribunal.”

Ed, a British citizen, was appealing against a decision to refuse a settlement visa for his wife, Papaipit, who is from Thailand. During the two-year process, the Home Office lost the records of the initial appeal. “[The lost documents] didn’t stall things because they only conceded that in the last moment. The entire process was opaque … they potentially lost the documents at the beginning,” Ed says.

“It was a remarkable concession that told us they were ‘unable to locate’ pretty much all of the documents relating to every stage of our two-year-long appeal battle, which begs the question: how can they have continued to contest it for so long?”

When the Home Office refused the spousal visa, the family had to remain in Thailand for about 14 months in order to stay together. Papaipit was pregnant with their second child, who was born in Thailand despite all the antenatal arrangements having been made at Macclesfield general hospital.

The family finally returned to the UK on a visitor visa, to allow the children to see their grandparents. Eventually, after their savings ran out and the Home Office had miscalculated their funds, Papaipit had no choice but to overstay her visitor visa while they waited for the result of the appeal.

The appeal was eventually upheld, although Papaipit is still waiting for the Home Office to issue her visa. The process has taken a toll on the family. “The main effect has been the enormous emotional strain,” Ed says. “We lived in a hotel and then rented accommodation. When we moved back to the UK we lived with my parents.”

When eight enforcement officers burst into Franklin’s flat at about 7am and took him to a detention centre, he was terrified and confused. “They were going through all the flats looking for me. At first I thought it was a mistake, but then they took me away and said I would be deported in two days,” he says.