A Polish man has been detained for more than two months and threatened with deportation after reporting a crime, according to his wife and lawyer.
Miroslaw Zieba, 48, and his wife Mariola Zieba, 37, said they went to the police after their landlord walked into the flat they were renting with two other men, all wearing balaclavas, and forced the couple out after threatening them with a kitchen knife and a baseball bat.
Mariola Zieba was injured in the attack and needed hospital treatment, she said. However, when the couple reported the attack to the police, they questioned the couple about their immigration status and handed Miroslaw Zieba over to immigration officials, who detained him in Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow where he remains, the couple’s lawyer told the Guardian.
Zieba is an EU national who was legally working in the UK until he was arrested and detained. He has criminal convictions in Poland dating back to 1990 for a series of crimes, including robbery and neglecting his military duties. He served prison time for those offences and, under its own rules, the Home Office cannot deport solely on the basis of previous convictions that have already been punished.
The case follows an incident of a woman who told police she had been kidnapped and raped and was then arrested on immigration charges while being cared for at a centre for sexual assault victims.
Zieba’s solicitor Fahad Ansari, of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, said his client was appealing against the decision when the case is heard heard on 2 January 2018.
“It beggars belief that we are now living in a society where foreign nationals should be apprehensive about reporting crimes to the police out of fear of being detained and deported themselves,” he said.
“This will not only send shockwaves throughout communities within the UK but is also likely to be perceived by criminals as a green light for them to target foreign nationals who may be too afraid to report the crime to the authorities. This is the sadly predictable result of Theresa May’s attempts to create a ‘hostile environment’ for foreign nationals in Britain.”
Ansari said under immigration rules, the Home Office had to prove Zieba’s conduct represented “a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat affecting one of the fundamental interests of society”. Previous criminal convictions did not justify the decision to deport, he added.
Mariola Zieba said the couple couldn’t comprehend what had happened. “I was in a state of shock and did not know where he was or why he was being held,” she said. “I was struggling to understand what had happened as it seemed very odd for the victims of a crime to be held overnight.
“My husband was snatched away from me and they tried to deport him to Poland on the basis of crimes he committed many years ago [there] for which he has served his time.”
She added that she felt completely let down by the authorities. “My husband and I were the victims of a horrific and terrifying crime. We were terrorised and threatened. I was physically assaulted and left with bruises all over my face and body. If we cannot call the police to protect us, then who else will?”
Ansari said officials at the Polish embassy were concerned about the way the Home Office had treated Zieba. A Polish embassy spokesman said: “The case is known to the embassy and its consular section, which is in contact with the people involved and is assisting as much as it can.”