The Home Office has agreed to pay nearly £6,000 in a settlement to an EU citizen it detained at the border in a post-Brexit crack down on Europeans entering the country last year.
Miro Matos, a Slovakian who has lived in the UK for 18 years, was so furious at his treatment in Calais that he sued after officials detained him for 10 hours alleging he was using a false name and had not declared a driving offence when he applied for EU settled status.
“I thought: ‘Have they lost their minds?’ I didn’t come in on a floating door. I drive in a car. I understand when there is human error but every single thing they said about me was rubbish,” he said.
“I have travelled the world, but this is the rudest approach I have ever experienced,” he said.
When he applied to see the notes of the border official in preparation for a complaint he was shocked to see that officials wrote that he had tried to “smuggle someone in”.
In a pre-action response in November, the Home Office confirmed its records should also have shown he was entitled to be in the country – not only had he settled status but three months earlier the Home Office had approved his application to become a British citizen, inviting him to a naturalisation ceremony 10 days after his detention.
Correspondence from the Home Office after his complaint acknowledged “that detention was unwarranted in light of your status to reside in the UK. Your status should have been known to the persons on staff at the time of your detention.”
It agreed that “compensation” was “appropriate” and initially made an offer of £2,000, but in the last week it agreed a settlement of £5,750.
But he declined the offer after a complaint in which he said “it is quite difficult to stand up to against a firm that uses lies as a working tool”.
He also said it was important to get the detention record scrubbed so he would not face detention every time he came home after travelling.
Matos’s nightmare began at 6.40pm one evening last May when he was returning home after a visit to his Covid-vulnerable mother in Slovakia.
He was detained along with a Brazilian friend who was returning to London to collect his luggage before flying back to Rio de Janeiro.
Officials confiscated their phones, took their luggage and despite many requests did not tell Matos what was going on until 3.30am the following morning.
Matos, 42, who is the general manager at a restaurant in Chancery Lane in London, said he understands that border officials have to check documents but had not expected such hostility.
“I knew I had done nothing wrong,” he said. “But no matter how many times I asked them what was going on they wouldn’t say. They put us a backroom with a little mat and a blanket. They offered us a mask.
“Our phones were taken away. Our luggage. I said you can go and open the car, look at everything, but I just want someone to talk to me and explain what was wrong.
“Nobody came until about 3.30am in the morning when they started asking me random questions. When they asked me about an alias, I said: ‘What are you talking about? I have never used another name in my life.’”
It transpired that the Home Office had a misspelled version of his name, Matios, instead of Matos.
He said he was “not proud” of the driving offence, which happened 16 years ago and was in any case legally spent, and claimed border officials said they could rescind his settled status.
After completing a subject access request to obtain Home Office records, he was pleased to be reminded that he had declared the offence on his application for settled status.
“I can understand that they have to check things but the normal approach is: ‘This is what we think, tell us your side of the story, let’s get the facts,’ but in Calais this woman was just trying to write a report which she wanted to write rather than the facts she heard,” he said.
The Home Office has been approached for comment.