Stoly’s back! Health food shop worker threatened with deportation returns to work
'I keep saying ‘thank you, thank you’ - I could say it for the rest of my life'
13 July, 2017 — By William McLennan
Stojan Jankovic (right) with Earth Natural Foods director Yanni Perivolas
A KENTISH Town man who was at the centre of a massive public campaign when he was taken away by border police and threatened with deportation is back behind the tills at his beloved workplace.
Stojan Jankovic, who has become a popular figure in NW5 through his role at Earth Natural Foods, learned last month that he had been given permission to live and work in the UK. In March he was held at an immigration detention centre and told he could be forced to leave the country within days.
News of his plight, first publicised by the New Journal, led more than 20,000 people to sign a petition demanding that Home Secretary Amber Rudd “stop the shameful deportation”. Mr Jankovic was eventually released and given time to prepare an immigration application after an intervention by Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer.
The store’s co-founder, John Grayson, who worked to secure Mr Jankovic’s release from detention and right to live in the UK, said: “It’s lovely to see him back here. It is where he has been for so long and he has become an institution. The only drawback is he is being completely overwhelmed with wellwishers. But it’s all well intentioned, so it’s a good problem to have.”
He added: “Our customers were a big part of it, they have been amazing. The whole community was, really. It wasn’t a very nice experience for anyone, but one good thing was witnessing the community rally round.” Mr Jankovic was detained 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 in Dorset.
He 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. News of Mr Jankovic’s plight spread across the globe and he was swamped with interview requests from as far afield as Brazil as well as all the main British broadcasters and Serbian newspapers.
Mr Grayson said the media had been instrumental, adding: “The CNJ was really helpful in all of this.” As his future hung in the balance in April, Mr Jankovic said: “I’m a workaholic. I feel terrible that I can’t work. When I was in the nick I was pretending I was working, reciting prices – ‘Carrots, £2.25. Savoy cabbage, £1.20. Would you like cash back?’ Just to not get rusty.”
Back at work on Friday, Mr Jankovic said he was slowly acclimatising to normality, but had lost some of his ability to recall at will the prices of all of the shop’s many products. On the scale of support he has received from the community, he said: “It is really difficult to say anything about it that doesn’t sound corny, because of the magnitude of it to me. I keep saying ‘thank you, thank you’. I could say it for the rest of my life.”
The Home Office has granted Mr Jankovic “leave to remain” for two years and he can then apply for “indefinite leave to remain”.