Aussie artist faced ‘Kafkaesque’ deportation from the UK – The Sydney Morning Herald

An Australian artist who was deported from Britain has been told that living with a friend in Yorkshire for a month does not represent “the actions of a genuine visitor to the United Kingdom”.

Jody Cleaver was in the middle of a five-month-long trip in Europe, when she was stopped at London’s Stansted Airport, interrogated and incarcerated overnight. 

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Aussie headed for Leeds deported

Australian artist Jody Cleaver describes her UK deportation as ‘Kafkaesque’ as she planned to stay in Leeds with a friend.

Ms Cleaver said she wanted to stay in England for about a month, and planned to live with her friend in Leeds, where she would look after her friend’s dog and help redecorate the house, while doing odd jobs online for an Australian gallery.

But British immigration authorities questioned Ms Cleaver’s story, stating in a deportation notice: “you intend to stay with your friend … in Leeds, and you intend to look after her dogs, help her redecorate her house in Leeds and sight-see in Leeds.

Jody Cleaver in Naples, weeks before she travelled to the UK. Jody Cleaver in Naples, weeks before she travelled to the UK. Photo: Facebook

“I note you have been unable to state what you intend to see in Leeds … I am satisfied that this does not represent the actions of a genuine visitor to the United Kingdom but rather a means to prolong your stay in the United Kingdom.” 

The official also listed Ms Cleaver’s lack of permanent employment in Australia as a reason for her deportation, despite the 31-year-old providing evidence to show that she is a freelance photo and video artist.

Ms Cleaver was flown back to Rome on Sunday, where she remains in limbo.

“I had a very Kafkaesque experience,” she said from Rome. 

“I did not plan to work in the UK, I just wanted to visit.

“The details of the whole process is what made it truly bizarre.”

Still recovering from the shock of the decision, Ms Cleaver, who is from Melbourne, said she had an itinerary planned, which involved meeting her mother in Paris in October.

“It was so obvious that I had been travelling around Europe.”

Ms Cleaver said  the UK officials made wild assumptions about her, using scribbled notes in her diary as evidence.

One page in her diary included the heading “Do jobs”, with a list of tasks, such as researching museums and transport, beneath it.

The British official seized on the phrase, citing it as evidence that Ms Cleaver wanted to get a job in England.

“It was a to do list,” she said. “He then asked me if I had CVs in my bag ready to hand out to people.”

In other scribblings in her notebook, she detailed plans to obtain a visa for the Schengen zone and listed Spain, Italy and France as possible options for long-term work.

“I wrote nothing about the UK,” she said. “Yet he alighted on that and said, ‘you wrote long term work, meaning you’re trying to work illegally here because you haven’t written the word permit in your notebook. That means you’re looking for work without a permit’.”

The official also pressed her on her reason for undertaking a fine art painting course while she was alone in Florence.

“He told me I was lying from the very beginning, suggesting that basic facts like the painting course I did in Florence may have had something to do with working in the UK.”

Ms Cleaver was confined in a room in the airport with an Eastern European man overnight, before she was marched to the plane the next morning, and her passport handed in a brown paper bag to the pilot, who delivered it directly to authorities in Rome. 

Ms Cleaver was permitted to stay in Rome, but she cannot return to the UK within the next six months, and will be questioned every time she re-enters the country.

“I was told that if I return, I would also need a contract showing that I have full-time work in Australia with my dates of leave specified and signed by everyone.”

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said they had “no role in relation to the sovereign decisions of other countries in relation to visa and migration matters.”

The UK Home Office did not respond to questions from Fairfax Media.


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