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London’s mother stranded in Jamaica “broken heart”

Tiffany Ellis’ son Xien was denied a visa to the UK, meaning she could not return to London

What was supposed to be a dream wedding in Jamaica slowly turned into a nightmare for Tiffany Ellis. First, Covid-19 prevented her from returning home, then the Home Office denied her a visa for her newborn son. This divided her family in two and her “heart broke”.

The mother of two in London told the BBC how eight months in limbo had affected her mental health, her daughter’s grades and shaken her faith in Britain.

“It gets to the point that you’re so anxious every day that you do not sleep.

“I have not slept a good night since I found out.”

‘Just collapsed’

'Just collapsed'

Mrs Ellis, 28, remembers all about the moment she found out that her son Xien had been refused a visa to the UK.

She was born in Jamaica, but has indefinite leave to stay in the UK, where she has lived since she was eight.

Xien was born in Jamaica after his family became stuck due to the coronavirus pandemic. This means that he is not classified as a British citizen.

“I found the letter and just collapsed. I lay on the floor and cried for 45 minutes straight.

“I was really broken, and that’s exactly how it felt. I felt like my heart was going to run.”

Mrs. Ellis raised her son for 15 months in Montego Bay after being stuck in Jamaica

Mrs Ellis and her partner Zarren had traveled from their home in Croydon, south London, to Jamaica in January 2020 to get married, accompanied by their toddler daughter Xianna.

But their plans were derailed by the global pandemic, and the family was forced to stay in Jamaica when the countries were locked and the planes canceled.

As the restrictions eased, they were finally married on the Caribbean island in August 2020.

Within weeks, Mrs. Ellis became pregnant. She developed hyperemesis gravidarum, which led to dizziness and vomiting so severe that she was unable to leave the house.

Her condition left her in Jamaica, where she gave birth to Xien on April 20, 2021. Mrs. Ellis was told she had to apply for a visa for her son to enter the United Kingdom.

Zarren and Xianna have lived in Croydon without Mrs. Ellis since December

Still without a visa for Xien, Zarren and Xianna returned to London so that Xianna could begin her first year of school.

“Me and my daughter were like best friends. We literally went everywhere together,” said Mrs. Ellis.

“Before all this is the most I’ve been apart of her one night.”

Three months after the application, Mrs Ellis was informed that her son’s visa application had been rejected.

The official response suggested that she travel home to London without Xien and support her son’s life externally, Mrs Ellis said.

She believes her family fell victim to a “hostile environment” application system.

The system, led by former Prime Minister Theresa May, established a more complicated application process for migrants to live in the UK.

Mrs Ellis appealed the decision, but said she never heard back from the British High Commission in Kingston.

‘Anxious all the time’

'Anxious all the time'

From that day on, she said she had “lived a temporary life.”

“You do not want to plan too much in case things change,” she said.

“For example, I do not want to buy too many diapers and too much food.

“You’re anxious all the time. You think ‘will today be the day they say I can go home?’

Mrs Ellis’ anxiety worsened after doctors diagnosed Xien with a kidney disease. She found no specialist pediatric treatment for the condition was available in Jamaica.

Meanwhile, she says her daughter’s schooling has suffered.

“She was always top of her class in everything, and now she’s falling back,” said Mrs. Ellis.

“Her teachers say she has lost focus and is easily distracted.

“I can see how the aftermath of being stuck happens to her.”

‘We need humanity’

'We need humanity'

Earlier this week, Mrs Ellis’ story was published in the Guardian newspaper.

The next day, Xien’s visa had been granted.

“I broke down again, in the exact same place I collapsed when I was told that Xien’s visa was denied.

“I was so happy that it’s almost like disbelief.”

But her happiness soon gave way to a bitter realization.

“It was in the press for only 24 hours before they overturned the decision,” she said.

“It shows that they always had the power to turn it around so quickly. If you had the power to turn things around so quickly, why did they make us wait six and a half months?”

After months of stasis, Mrs. Ellis’ story suddenly began to gain momentum. A crowdfunding site was created to buy her and Xien a plane ticket home.

She returned to London on Thursday morning – the day after being interviewed for this story – just over 24 hours after her son’s visa was approved.

“I grew up in the UK. I grew up in a country I trusted and I thought that if you are honest and do everything right in life, life will work out for you.

“I trusted it. But the country I have known all my life has left me stranded out here.

She asked the Home Office to “put some humanity into dealing with visa issues”.

“You can’t just assess someone’s whole life based on a case file,” she said.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “We are in contact with Ellis and have now issued the child’s visa.”

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