Deportation row: Stoly Jankovic back home in Kentish Town
'Question marks' over decision to hold the popular shop worker for four days
03 April, 2017 — By William McLennan
Mr Jankovic back at home in NW5
A MUCH-LOVED Kentish Town figure who was detained by border police and told he faced imminent deportation is safely back at home after a massive public backlash.
Stojan Jankovic, who works at Earth Natural Foods and is widely known as ‘Stoly’, had been held at an immigration removal centre in Dorset since Thursday.
The New Journal reported last night (Monday) how he had arrived home. He was released in the afternoon after learning that attempts to deport him have been delayed by at least a fortnight, allowing him time to put his case.
It follows an intervention by Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer and outrage from thousands in Kentish Town. The New Journal interviewed Mr Jankovic while he was being held at the detention centre on Friday evening.
A petition calling for Home Secretary Amber Rudd to “stop the shameful deportation”, signed by 20,000 people, was delivered to the home office today. The signatures were amassed in just two days after the New Journal revealed details of Mr Jankovic’s detention on Friday evening.
Mr Starmer said on Monday afternoon: “I’m very pleased he’s being released. It’s the right thing to do.”
He said the manner in which Mr Jankovic had been detained, only to be released days later, raised “questions marks about the whole procedure”.
Mr Jankovic came to London in 1991, fleeing his home in what was then the Republic of Yugoslavia as tensions mounted ahead of the war that would go on to claim an estimated 140,000 lives. He has lived in London ever since and worked in Kentish Town for the past 15 years.
He was detained on Thursday as he attended a monthly appointment at an immigration reporting centre in London Bridge. With only the clothes on his back, he was transported to The Verne Immigration Removal Centre – a former fortress and prison in the Isle of Portland, Dorset
Mr Jankovic still faces deportation proceedings.
Earlier on Monday, the Immigration Minister agreed to delay deportation for at least two weeks, after Mr Starmer intervened.
“This was about getting the time necessary to ensure that Stoly had proper advice and representation,” Mr Starmer said.
“They were proposing at one stage to remove him tomorrow, which didn’t even allow him time to get proper advice.
“This is a successful stage one, but there is much more to do.”
A letter handed to Ms Rudd today alongside the petition said: “[He] has lived and worked in our community for 26 years, during which time he has served the people of Camden and the United Kingdom with kindness, good humour, indefatigable hard work, unswerving honesty and true loyalty.
“He is the embodiment of all the values that Londoners and patriotic British people hold dear, and he is one of us.”
Neil Finer, who organised the petition with fellow Kentish Town resident Sue Odell, said: “It’s fantastic news. I couldn’t be more delighted. There will be a lot more to come but at least it gives a chance and a chance for due process to follow its course.
He thanked the New Journal for the role it played in drawing attention to the case and said: “I really think it couldn’t be done with out you taking the lead on this. It’s a great result.”
Speaking before his release, Ms Odell said his treatment had been “outrageous”.
“He’s been living here, paying taxes, working hard,” she said. “It’s just so wrong. I think he’s just a statistic, so Amber Rudd can say they have deported however many thousands this year.”
She said Mr Jankovic was an “absolutely wonderful asset to the community,” adding: “A lot of people thought he owned Earth, he was the face of the place.”
Speaking to the New Journal from the “induction” wing of the detention centre on Friday evening, Mr Jankovic said that his failure to get to grips with the bureaucracy of the immigration system was to blame for the “sticky situation” he found himself in.
“I see myself as completely assimilated,” he said. “I don’t know what more I can do in that respect. This is my neighbourhood, my culture. If you don’t mind me saying so assertively, this is my place. Why is it not my place? Because I don’t have the proper papers signed. I’m sorry, that’s my fault, I admit it.”
He said: “I am absolutely mortified. I’m not mortified and afraid of this place. This [detention centre] is fine, there’s nothing scary about it, but I’m mortified about losing my life.”
It is believed Mr Jankovic will now have an application for indefinite leave to remain considered by the Home Office.