Failed asylum seeker facing deportation wins reprieve

Immigration officials yesterday dramatically halted the deportation of a man from Sheffield who had been accused of entering into a sham marriage in order to secure his right to remain in Britain.

Justice Charles, 35, was due to leave Heathrow Airport on a BMI flight bound for Freetown, Sierra Leone, yesterday afternoon but the Home Office confirmed his removal had been temporarily cancelled.

Mr Charles was arrested by UK Border Agency officers earlier this month and taken to an immigration removal centre in Lincolnshire after an immigration judge ruled he was not entitled to asylum.

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The judge also said that Mr Charles had entered into a marriage of convenience with his wife Ruby, 46, but the couple, who married three years ago after meeting in 2003, fiercely denied the allegation.

His case was supported by Canon Julian Sullivan the Sheffield vicar who presided over the wedding at St Mary’s Church in the city, who said: “They satisfied the scrutiny of myself as a local priest resident in the neighbourhood, knowing its foibles very well.”

On Wednesday Mr Charles was taken to another immigration removal centre at Colnbrook, near Heathrow, and it is understood he remained there last night waiting for further news on his future.

Protesters in Sheffield who launched a campaign to stop Mr Charles’s deportation yesterday said they would now continue their fight to ensure he returned to the house he shared with his wife in Fieldhead Road, Highfield.

A tearful Mrs Charles said she was still angry with officials over what had happened but added: “This is the happiest day of my life”.

Campaigners had written to Home Secretary Theresa May to register their opposition to Mr Charles’s removal from the country citing his mental illness as just one reason why he should be granted asylum.

It is claimed Mr Charles is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after his involvement in Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war, and that he faces persecution if he returns to his home country. His wife had vowed to follow him if he was deported.

Graham Wroe, who has helped lead the campaign to help Mr Charles avoid being sent home, said last night: “I am so proud of Ruby. She has been through hell this week and always kept her dignity.

“Any allegations that this is a sham marriage have been shot to pieces – this couple are very much in love and would do anything for each other, even if it meant putting their own lives at risk.”

Yesterday the UK Border Agency said its position had not changed with regard to Mr Charles’s case, which was that he did not need protection from the British state and therefore should not be given leave to remain.

A spokesman said he could not comment on the details of why the deportation had been halted at the last minute.