12 May, 2021 @ 12:45
1 min read

‘MARIA’ SET FREE: Young woman from Spain’s Valencia who was sent to an immigration clearing centre in the UK is released four days later

Gatwick Border Control
Gatwick border control

HER nightmare is over… for now.

As reported by The Olive Press last week, a 25-year-old Valencian woman identified as Maria – not her real name – had been sent to a foreigners’ detention centre in the UK after landing at Gatwick Airport without having been granted EU Settlement status – a new requirement for EU nationals looking to live and work in the UK after Brexit.

After spending four days at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) in Bedfordshire, Maria was finally allowed to leave the IRC to stay with her sister in London.   

According to a friend of hers, identified as Ana although that is not her real name either, Maria was relatively well looked after, although she reported feeling cold and only being given one change of underwear in four days.

Luckily, Maria kept the SIM card for her English mobile phone from when she worked in the country for six months in 2019, which allowed her to stay in touch with Ana and her sister when Maria was finally granted access to a phone.

According to her friend, Maria was aware of the mistake she had made by failing to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme before travelling back to the UK to work.

However, her requests to be allowed to just jump on the first plane back to Spain were reportedly rejected by the Gatwick border officials, although it appears that this permission has been given in other similar cases.

Gatwick Border Control
Gatwick border control

Reports reveal that there was also an outbreak of COVID at the IRC, which could have resulted in Maria being forced to stay there for 10 days until being cleared.

The Spanish Foreign Office stepped in via the consulate upon hearing of the case, reportedly speaking to Maria twice and contacting the UK Home Office for information.

Finally, thanks to the pressure exerted by the international press, the authorities and Maria’s friends on social media, she was allowed to leave the centre and move into her sister’s house, where she will quarantine for 10 days.  

Spanish press reports claim that the UK immigration officials have confiscated Maria’s passport and could return at any time to deport her back to Spain.

According to sources close to the Spanish Home Office, this is not the first case of its kind to be reported lately at UK airports, although it is by far the ‘most dramatic’. 


Glenn Wickman

Glenn is a trained and experienced journalist, having obtained a BA Hons degree in Journalism and Communication Studies with Spanish from Middlesex University (London) in 2001.
Since then he has worked on several English-language newspapers in Alicante Province, including 11 years at the Costa Blanca News.
He is trilingual in English, Spanish and Catalán/Valenciano, a qualified ELT teacher and translator with a passion for the written word.
After several years in Barcelona, Glenn has now returned to the Costa Blanca (Alicante), from where he will cover local stories as well as Valencia and Castellón/Costa Azahar.
Please drop him a line if you have any news that you think should be covered in either of these areas, he will gladly get in touch!

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