My partner was deported and I don’t know if our sons will ever see him again

My partner was deported and I don’t know if our sons will ever see him again

Until recently, my family had a pretty normal life. There was a mum, a dad and two kids. When I went to my job in a supermarket, my partner Rayan would take care of our boys.

Nowadays, I’m a key worker on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis and I’m doing it all alone. This isn’t because Rayan is self-isolating, and it’s not because he left us. Not by choice anyway.

Rayan was deported to Jamaica on 11 February of this year, leaving a gaping hole in our family that I’ll never be able to fill. I’m putting myself and my family at risk to help keep the country going, but I feel like the country has turned its back on us.

Rayan and I met when we were teenagers and we’ve been together for 16 years, but in the last three months I’ve only been able to speak to him for a total of 20 minutes. I spend £25 a month on his phone credit but we rarely get a good enough connection to video chat.

When we do, our three year old son won’t even talk to him. His whole life, Rayan’s looked after him when I’ve been at work. It’s not like I can explain deportation laws to him, so all he knows is suddenly daddy’s gone and he doesn’t know why.

He asks me if Rayan went away because he doesn’t like us or because he left us for another family. Then sometimes, when I tell him that’s not true, he says daddy must be dead. I’m not sure which is worse.

Our oldest is 13. He’s being so brave and tries to talk to Rayan like normal, but I know he feels rejected and lost. He thought we were just a normal British family.

Even when we do get a chance to speak, Rayan won’t tell me about where he’s living and he won’t show the kids. I know it’s because conditions are dire and he doesn’t want to upset us. Even from miles away, he’s still trying to protect us any way he can.

I’ll never forget the day before he was deported. It was in the middle of Storm Dennis and there were no trains, so I had to pay someone to drive us to Gatwick to see him.

It took so long that we only got half an hour together. Half an hour to say goodbye. Half an hour for Rayan to hold his sons for the last time.

When we got up to leave, our three-year-old said ‘is Daddy staying here? Whose house is this?’. He cried and begged his dad to come back with us.

Ever since that day, my mum has had to distract my youngest son so I can sneak out to work. Once he realises I’m gone, he starts screaming the house down. He asks if I’ll ever come back. He won’t sleep until I am, sometimes as late as 1am.

Somehow when this happens I feel so guilty, like I’m abandoning him, even though I know I’ll be back. All I want to do is go back, give him a cuddle, and tell him it’s all going to be ok. But more than ever, I have to go to work, to support my kids. There’s no one else to help me now.

Rayan came to the UK when he was 12. His mum in Jamaica left him and his dad brought him here. They have been inseparable ever since and I know Rayan’s deportation has hit his father hard.

To make matters worse, at the beginning of lockdown, Rayan’s dad was diagnosed with coronavirus. He’s 65 and had to see out the illness alone. I couldn’t go to check on him and Rayan has barely been able to speak to him.

This isn’t to say that Rayan’s always been perfect. He had a gambling addiction for a long time, which led to him committing robbery. In turn, that led to his deportation. He knows this is a serious crime and I know he regrets it more than anything.

He’s not the first person to make a mistake, but now he’s been banished from the only home he’s known since he was a child. Since being released in early 2018, he’s been carefully putting his life back together – I’ve been so proud of him.

But now, he can’t watch his kids grow up, hug his partner, or look after his dad in his old age. Worse, he can’t even support himself where he is.

Rayan has Blount’s Disease. It’s a serious condition that has affected his bone growth and meant he’s been on crutches since he was a child. It causes him a lot of pain and I don’t know if he’s even able to afford painkillers in Jamaica.

As for registering for treatment, the combination of Covid-19 lockdowns and not having lived there for 20 years makes that impossible.

I’ve always been proud of my hard work, but supermarkets are dangerous places to work right now. We’re trying our best but social distancing is difficult and I know I’m at risk.

I constantly worry about making my children sick and I can’t stop thinking about what would happen to them if something happens to me and they lose both parents.

When I’m not lying awake at night, imagining where Rayan is living and fearing the worst, my mind turns to my sons. How can I keep them safe while I’m working on the frontline of the Covid crisis? How will they cope with our family being torn apart?

If this story shocks you, I need you to know that my family aren’t the only ones. Our deportation laws mean that having kids, and even having lived here since childhood won’t save you from being permanently banished from the UK. It’s brutal, inhumane and tears hundreds of families apart each year.

Rayan’s deportation flight alone, there were 17 others, some who’d come to the UK as young as three. Between them they had at least 27 children who may never see their dads again.

People on social media have told me we deserve what’s happened to us because Rayan is a criminal. But he’s served his time. If he had a British passport he would have been reunited with his family. Why should he and so many others be punished twice? And why should their children pay such a terrible price?

I love Rayan. He’s put me through some tough times, but I’m proud of how he turned himself around when he got out of prison. He’s loved and looked after me and our sons, and was making plans to support us.

We should be putting his past behind us now. We should be home together. Instead I’m counting every penny I have and desperately wondering if I’ll ever have enough to take my kids to see their dad.

This pandemic is a scary time for all of us, but if you can hold your family close, count yourself lucky. My family is now four broken hearts.