ONE of Sheffield’s best-known characters is today in detention facing deportation.
Gwendolyn Roomes – who is renowned for singing hymns on Fargate in Sheffield city centre – is being held as she faces extradition back to Jamaica.
The move has left her family outraged as they say Gwen, aged 59, only came here because she was invited by the government.
But her visa has expired and repeated applications to stay have been rejected. She is now awaiting a decision on her latest application
Son Sam, 27, said: “My mother was invited to come to the UK to teach in 2002.
“In 2005 there was a mix- up with her application for a visa extension. The Home Office sent her the wrong application form, which she filled in. By the time the mistake was spotted she was out of time. Since then she has done everything by the book.
“She has passed her British citizenship test in 2009 and applied for leave to stay on numerous occasions and has spent more than £4,000 in fees and legal costs. She has done everything the right way, but each time her application has been rejected. We have been warned that if she is turned down this time, she could be put on a plane for Jamaica.
“I am angry and worried. I don’t know what the Home Office people are looking for; she is a kind, caring woman who works hard for the community. She has lived with uncertainty over her right to stay here for seven years, but always puts on a brave face.”
Stalwart Christian Gwendolyn arrived in Sheffield to work as a supply teacher as part of the government’s Highly Skilled Migrant Programme at a time of teacher shortages in the UK.
She has worked at about 20 Sheffield schools, but has not been allowed to teach since her visa expired and cannot claim benefits.
UK Border Agency officers initially took Gwen to a detention centre close to Manchester Airport, but she has since moved to a holding facility in London.
She said: “I was told my last application was a few days late and brought here.
“There was no warning. I am panicked. I’m just trusting in God that my application will be approved and I won’t be sent back to Jamaica.
“Two of my children and three of my grandchildren are in Sheffield. I love the city that has been my home for almost a decade and have not taken a penny in benefits. My lawyer is trying to sort out this mess. If they don’t grant this application I could be on a plane in a few days’ time.”
Vincent Adedara, Gwen’s legal adviser, has applied for his client to be allowed to stay in Sheffield while her case is dealt with.
But he says the UKBA will not budge.
He said: “All her family are here. She is a mature lady who causes no threat or concern to anyone. The UKBA has yet to say when it will be making a decision.”
The UKBA said it did not comment on individual cases.