Albert watched the van make its way slowly down the High Road. It stopped outside Londis, where he’d just picked up a sandwich for his lunch. The sign on the side of the van read: In the UK Illegally? Go Home or Face Arrest. Text HOME to 78070.
His visa had expired, but work as a builder was still available, and he was making enough to send a little to his mother on the other side of Europe. Albert knew he should have either returned or renewed, but where is the time if you start work at eight and finish after four?
Now, it seemed, the authorities had tracked him down. There was a big stamp on the side of the sign. It said: 106 arrests last week in your area.
He was due back on site in ten minutes, but if the alternative to going home was arrest, clearly he must go home. Now.
Texting excuses to a fellow workmate, he headed back to 148 Rucklidge Road, to the house he shared with seven others. The communal kitchen was empty and the toilet was free, but instead of enjoying the silence he felt anxious; out of sorts.
Well, thought Albert, I’ve come home as instructed. What do I do now?
Lesson: It is precisely because the UK is home, that people take risks to live here.
Shyama Perera is a writer and broadcaster. She has written three novels, co-presented The Six O'Clock Show on LWT and Eastern Eye on Channel Four. She spent five years at a Home News reporter for The Guardian.