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Birmingham academic arrested after student visa expires

Shakespeare expert Dr Paul Hamilton who studied for a PhD at the University of Birmingham has spent ten days at a refugee centre and must leave next week

Dr Paul Hamilton is due to leave the UK next week after being arrested

A Birmingham academic has spoken of his humiliation after he was arrested in front of neighbours and thrown into the back of a police van.

Immigration officials swooped to take Shakespeare expert Dr Paul Hamilton, who is from California, into custody after his student visa expired.

Dr Hamilton, 42, who last year graduated with his PhD from the University of Birmingham, had been taking part in preparations to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death in Stratford-upon-Avon.

He described his horror at being treated like a "common criminal" and being thrown into a police cell for ten hours.

Dr Hamilton was finally released on Wednesday afternoon but he told the Post he had agreed to leave the UK within four days.

His arrest on January 17 sparked outrage in academic circles, many of whom branded it a "shameful" overreaction.

In an interview from his cell at the Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre near Lincoln, Dr Hamilton told the Post : "I have been treated like a common criminal. I was arrested in front of all my neighbours.

"My apartment has a quadrangle at the middle of it and all the windows look in on it. I was arrested at 1.30 in the afternoon there and it happened in front of my neighbours.

"I think they had a good opinion of me before but I'm not so sure now. Then I was taken and put in the cage - which is what the back of a police wagon is.

"I was taken to a police station and was basically in my prison cell there for ten hours. I was then taken by road for six and a half hours to the immigration centre, arriving at 5.30am. It was the most devastating experience of my life."

He said he had told the police sergeant he had gone from the lifetime high of his PhD graduation in the University of Birmingham's Great Hall to the total low of this arrest.

Dr Hamilton said: "I'm looking out of my window and it's got bars on it. Beyond that is a fence with barbed wire on the top of it."

He said he was moved by the reaction among fellow academics to his arrest and spoke of his appreciation that so many had called for his release.

Dr Hamilton, who has been living in the UK for nearly nine years, said: "It has been absolutely amazing and I have been humbled at the support.

"The British people are absolutely wonderful and welcoming and I want to return."

Dr Hamilton's release was agreed after he was able to show the authorities an airline ticket for a flight to America on February 1 - but he is planning to return to the UK once his immigration status is sorted out.

He applied for Home Office leave to stay in the UK last July but this was denied. He said news that decision had been made was only given to him on his arrest.

Timo Uotinen, his friend and collaborator on Shakespeare projects, said: "Dr Hamilton has spent nine years in the UK building up a professional network alongside his studies and research, all of which would be thrown away if he were to act illegally and go into hiding.

"One result of this is his central involvement in the Kingston Shakespeare project where he has organised conferences and seminars. Assessing Dr Hamilton to be a flight risk is an unjust and unfounded claim.

"Dr Hamilton had done nothing wrong or illegal nor was he accused of doing anything wrong, yet he was arrested and is still being detained a week after his arrest, despite people writing on his behalf and standing as surety for him."

Dr Hamilton received his doctorate from the Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham) in July 2015.

Ewen Fernie, professor and chairman of Shakespeare studies at Birmingham, who was Dr Hamilton's PhD supervisor, said that he had been "shocked" by news of the detention.

"As well as being a morally serious and sensitive person, Paul is a committed student and teacher of literature who wishes to make an academic career for himself in the country where he has latterly been educated," Professor Fernie said.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Mr Hamilton's application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK was refused on the grounds that he did not satisfy the relevant criteria under the immigration rules. He has the option of appealing this decision once he has left the UK.

"The Immigration Act 2014 clearly states that a person who does not have leave to remain in the UK is liable for removal. Enforcement action may be taken to remove these individuals.

"All cases are carefully considered on their individual merits, in line with the immigration rules and based on evidence provided by the applicant."

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