An Italian grandmother who has lived in Britain for 42 years has been ordered to leave the UK – after a Home Office email was sent to her junk folder.
Leonarda Zarcone, 74, was born in Italy and moved to the UK as a child before living in France where she was given French citizenship.
She and her husband Marcel Brunetto moved to the UK in 1981 and settled in Leicester where they bought a traditional British fish and chip shop and raised their three children.
After Britain officially left the EU in 2020 following Brexit, she and her family applied for settled status.
Her family were all granted settled status but the Home Office emailed her demanding more information for her application.
Leonarda Zarcone, 74, was born in Italy and moved to the UK as a child before living in France where she was given French citizenship
Pictured: The 28-day visitor stamp Leonarda Zarcone was given at East Midlands Airport which allowed her to enter the country
Leonarda Zarcone, 74, and her husband Marcel Brunetto moved to the UK in 1981 and settled in Leicester
But she never read the email after it landed in her spam inbox and Ms Zarcone missed the application deadline.
Last month she received a letter from the Home Office ordering her to leave the UK or face prosecution or even forced deportation.
Ms Zarcone, who has three grown-up children and four grandchildren, said: ‘When I opened the letter it was the shock of my life.
‘All my family and my roots are here. It’s really frightening. I have nowhere to go.
‘I moved to this country 42 years ago with my husband. We raised our three children here and ran a business together here.
‘I have paid National Insurance, taxes and lived an honest life.
‘My family have made their lives here and my youngest daughter was born in the UK. We even support Leicester City football team, this is our home.’
Her son, David Brunetto, 51, submitted EU settlement claims for his parents along with his own online application.
Ms Zarcone believed her application had been granted because David and his father Marcel, 77, were both given settled status.
After Britain officially left the EU in 2020 following Brexit , Leonarda Zarcone and her family applied for settled status
Unknown to her, the Home Office emailed Ms Zarcone asking her to provide evidence that she had lived in the UK continuously for five years.
When she failed to respond to the email, her application was refused.
Ms Zarcone only found out after she was stopped by an immigration officer when she returned from a family wedding in France in September.
She was eventually allowed through border control at East Midlands Airport with a 28-day visitor stamp which has now expired.
Ms Zarcone made another application but that was rejected and she says she lives in ‘daily fear’ over being deported.
She said: ‘I am now an illegal immigrant and all because of an email which was sent to my junk folder.
‘I am not great with computers. It makes me cry to think I will be sent away from this country and my family because of this.’
Ms Zarcone and her husband Marcel, who have always lived in Leicester, retired seven years ago.
The couple’s son David, who lives in the city, said: ‘My mum’s records prove that she has been living here for decades.
‘She’s receiving a state pension, so she’s paid into the system. She’s paid her taxes.
‘She’s paying council tax. There’s lots of proof.
Leonarda Zarcone’s family were all granted settled status but the Home Office emailed her demanding more information for her application
‘We haven’t heard anything from the Home Office since they ordered her to leave.
‘We’re so worried for my mum. It doesn’t seem fair at all.’
In a letter from the Home Office, Ms Zarcone was warned about the ‘consequences of staying in the UK unlawfully’.
They include being detained or prosecuted, being removed from the UK, or being charged for NHS medical treatment.
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘All EU Settlement Scheme applications are carefully considered on their individual merits, on the basis of the evidence provided and in accordance with the immigration rules.
‘A wide range of support remains available for applicants, including vulnerable people.
‘This includes support through a Grant Funded Network of third party organisations dedicated to assisting vulnerable people with their applications.’