Socialist Worker

Ernesto Leal is free – but still fighting to stay in Britain

Issue No. 2004

Ernesto Leal, a Chilean threatened with deportation, was released on bail on 2 June. The home office wants to deport him even though he holds a British passport and has been granted indefinite leave to remain in Britain.

Ernesto came to Britain as a teenager with his parents, who were refugees from General Pinochet’s regime in Chile.

He was arrested on 1 May by 30 armed officers who raided his London home at 8am. He was held in Forest Bank prison in Manchester for just over a month threatened with deportation to Jamaica.

His family have since been told that the destination of Jamaica might be a typing error.

The home office wants to deport Ernesto because he served a short prison sentence resulting from a fight in a pub.

His sister, Sonia, believes that he has been caught up in the row about “foreign prisoners”.

“Ernesto is a scapegoat for former home secretary Charles Clarke’s mess,” she told Socialist Worker. “We are very pleased to have Ernesto out on bail, but he should never have been held in the first place.

“This is only the first hurdle and now we have to prepare our case against deportation. We are still determined not to let them split up our family.

“Ernesto was held in prison, which is even worse than a detention centre. We only had half an hour access to him each day. It was very hard.

“There are lots of people in Ernesto’s situation in prison. He was lucky because we had a big campaign to get him out. Lots of other people are still stuck in prison waiting to be deported.

“We need to highlight Ernesto’s case and other examples like this. I think a lot of people are becoming more political because of cases like this. We have to fight for justice.”

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Sat 10 Jun 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2004
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