Ghanaian Teacher In UK Faces Deportation
A SUFFOLK schoolteacher may be forced to leave the country after a series of alleged mix-ups by immigration officials landed him a nightmare 16-day spell in detention centres across the UK. Blay Armah with his partner Tracey Mayes At a time when the schools are suffering one the worst staff shortfalls for years, maths teacher Blay Armah, who is originally from Ghana, may have to leave the country and the job he loves because of conflicting advice he received while he awaited a work permit. The 28-year-old university graduate taught for two terms at Deben High School in Felixstowe from January until July this year. His work permit then ran out – but he said he was assured by Home Office that permission for leave to stay and work in the UK was still under consideration. However, on September 12 he was arrested at his home in Handford Road, Ipswich, as an illegal immigrant on the run after an application for asylum was turned down. But Mr Armah was left baffled by this claim by the Immigration Service, a department of the Home Office. He claims he has never applied for asylum and maintained he entered as an economic migrant looking for a post as a teacher in July three years ago. What he found equally puzzling was the alleged asylum case was heard at a time when he was not even in the country but during a period when he returned to Ghana to fulfil his national service duty. The immigration service at Harwich put him in detention centres for 16 days at the Essex port, in Oxford and finally in Gosport, near Portsmouth before Mr Armah was threatened with removal from the country. On Monday he is due to meet immigration officials who want to see proof of his application for leave to stay in the UK, despite telling him his application has already been refused. Crucial paperwork to support his claim was lost when he was put into detention and his landlady cleared out his lodgings. Meanwhile he has been caught in a tangle of red tape as other officials in the Home Office have contradicted their colleagues in the Immigration Service, telling him his application is still being considered. The incident is sure to prove embarrassing for the Home Office as colleagues in the Foreign Office make desperate attempts to recruit teachers from other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand to make up numbers of qualified teaching staff. Mr Armah, who comes from a middle-class background who studied for three years to gain a Bachelor of Education degree in the west African country, travelled to Suffolk after family in the UK advised him he stood a good chance of getting a teaching job. Suffolk County Council employed him because they were unable to appoint a maths teacher of British nationality – and supported his application for a work permit. With his partner for 10-months, Stowmarket woman Tracey Hayes, he has been left angry and bewildered by his treatment. "It is very hard for me. It has been a very difficult situation. I loved teaching and they were nice kids. My partner keeps crying all the time and she doesn't even know what's going to happen on Monday. Ms Hayes said: "Since his arrest it has been awful - it was horrendous. When he got to Gosport one person in his dorm was spitting by his bed." "We've been under pressure, but the relationship is not suffering because we love each other and we have great hope that things will be sorted out." "This is someone who has always worked - he's paid £600 in taxes while he's been in this country and they're crying out for teachers, especially in maths. It's been like living on a knife-edge." An immigration service spokesman said: "If he has a work permit that was only valid until July, he would have had to renew it if he wanted to stay. We are never able to discuss the immigration status of individuals." No one at Deben High school was available for comment.