He has been in the country for 26 years since fleeing former Yugoslavia. One day he was sent to an immigration removal centre and is now at risk of deportation. This has been the intense citizen campaign to prevent his departure.
The locals that shop regularly in Earth Natural Foods, on Kentish Town Road, know him simply as Stoly. Few know that his real name is Stojan Jankovic.
From behind the counter, he has been offering natural products to North Londoners for more than 15 years. Those who know him mention how hardworking he is, his sense of humour and his desire to help others.
For this reason, it took everyone by surprise when on the 30 March, Stoly was sent without warning to the Verne Immigration Removal Centre in Dorset.
He was scheduled to be deported less than a week later, on Tuesday 4 April, from the United Kingdom. Arriving in 1991 after escaping former Yugoslavia, it didn’t take long for his peculiar situation to reach the British media, who gave accounts of the 52 year old man’s story.
The alarm was raised immediately among friends, customers and anti-deportation movements, and in a few days, the cause to defend him collected more than 22 thousand signatures of support. In Twitter, #savestoly quickly gathered the support of thousands more people. The overwhelming support was passed to the Home Office at midday on 3 April, 24 hours before his possible deportation. Two hours later, Labour MP Keir Starmer announced that a 14-day extension had been won. The information came directly from Robert Goodwill, Minister of State for Immigration.
Starmer, who defended Stoly from the start, announced that the situation was not yet resolved, but the extension granted would allow him to prepare his defence along with his lawyers.
According to his employer, John Grayson, Stoly has never failed to pay his taxes and national insurance. For 10 years, Stoly signed his migration papers every month in a centre in London Bridge. The last time, however, it was different. Instead of signing the documents, he was put in a van, taking only the clothes he was wearing at that time.
Grayson stated, “It is a horrible shock. He is a very integral member of the community in Kentish Town, very popular, and very well-liked. It has made a lot of people very, very angry that this could happen so arbitrarily”.
From the detention centre, Stoly himself said, “I see myself as completely assimilated. I don’t know what more I can do in that respect. This is my neighbourhood, my culture”.
Stoly is at risk of being deported to Serbia, a country created after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and for which he doesn’t hold a passport. He employer concludes, “He was hired in a transparent, open and honest way. He was given a national insurance number and when he started working with us, he was allowed to work. He had permission to do so.”
Photos: 38 degrees and Google Maps – (Translated by Lucy Daghorn – Emails: firstname.lastname@example.org)