Myriam Cadinouche claims the Home Office wrongly accused her of staying in the UK illegally and retained her passport and documents when she was in the third year of her doctorate.
It came after the student, originally from Mauritius, applied for indefinite leave to remain in the UK in 2016. She had lived in Britain for more than 10 years while studying in higher education.
Ms Cadinouche says the experience with the Home Office “destroyed” her health and severely disrupted her studies when she was just one year away from finishing her PhD.
In April 2017, seven months after her documents were taken, the Home Office sent a letter to Ms Cadinouche, which admitted to retaining her passport “in error”. But she says it was too late.
“I was not in a position to renew my studying. My health was completely damaged,” she told The Independent. “It’s damaged my life at all levels. I don’t have any prospects for the future.”
Ms Cadinouche tried to come back to the UK from Mauritius in September last year to resolve matters relating to her studies, and to retrieve her belongings, but she was refused entry.
The former international student said she is “desperate” to be allowed to return to Britain so she can complete her PhD and fulfil her dream of becoming a law academic at a British university.
“All those years of hard work have gone to waste when I was almost at the finishing line,” the former University of the West of England (UWE) student said.
Ms Cadinouche added: “I feel like the Home Office need to redress what they have done to my life.
“If the problem hadn’t happened with the Home Office I would have been able to finish my studying.”
Nazek Ramadan, director of charity Migrant Voice, said: “The way Myriam has been treated by the Home Office is despicable.
“She should be a proud British citizen by now, but instead she’s unfairly barred from a country that she called home for 10 years, her studies and plans for the future in ruins.”
Ms Ramadan added: “Her story shows once again that this Home Office needs fundamental reform and a new, more positive approach to migration, so that no one has to suffer like Myriam again.”
Eva Crossan Jory, vice president for welfare at the National Union of Students, said: “Without commenting on individual cases, it is clear that the hostile environment has had negative economic, educational, and human impacts, in particular to students on the basis of both heritage and nationality.
“Where government makes ‘mistakes’, the cost is borne by individuals, disproportionately impacting on already marginalised groups.”
It is understood that the Home Office considers immigration applications on their individual merits, taking into account a wide range of evidence including immigration history.
A sponsor may revoke their sponsorship of a visa due to a number of factors, including failure to attend the sponsored course, which may result in an individual’s leave being curtailed.
The Home Office was unable to provide a comment because of general election purdah constraints.