Exclusive: Home Office say Stoly Jankovic can continue to live and work in the UK
Success for campaign to "Save Stoly" as popular shop worker wins right to remain
28 June, 2017 — By William McLennan
More than 20,000 people have supported Mr Jankovic
A MUCH-LOVED Kentish Town figure whose detention by border police led to a massive public backlash has today been granted “leave to remain” in the country.
Thousands rallied around Stojan Jankovic, who is a familiar face to many through his role at Earth Natural Foods in Kentish Town Road, as he was held at an immigration removal centre in late-March. He was told at the time that he could be kicked out of the country within days.
After the New Journal broke the news, friends and customers at the shop set up a petition calling for Home Secretary Amber Rudd to “stop the shameful deportation”, which was signed by 20,000 people in just two days.
Mr Jankovic, who is known as Stoly, was released from detention shortly after the petition was delivered to the Home Office on April 3 and given time to make a formal application for “indefinite leave to remain”, following an intervention by MP Keir Starmer.
An urgent fundraising drive was then launched to cover his legal costs, with nearly £9,000 donated by 254 people.
He told the New Journal tonight (Wednesday): “It still hasn’t quite sunk in. I’m still absorbing this one.”
He said he was looking forward to “resuming normality”.
“I’m really glad. It all came out of that neighbourly thing and comes back to it at the end of all of the palaver,” he said.
“I’m now a legal person and, as a matter of fact, if you come along to the shop on Saturday I can sell you some groceries or get your lunch.”
He added: “It is really difficult to say anything about it that doesn’t sound corny, because of the magnitude of it to me. I keep saying thank you, thank you. I could say it for the rest of my life.”
Sue Odell, who organised the petition with Neil Finer, said: “I’m completely thrilled. It’s fantastic news and we’re so excited to see Stoly behind the counter again soon.”
At the end of March he was told that he could be kicked out of the country by as early as April 4, but today (Wednesday) was told he could remain in the UK – and, importantly, continue to work – until 2019. He will then be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
The 53-year-old moved to London in 1991. He fled his home in Yugoslavia on the eve of a war that led to the break-up of the republic into independent states.
He has spent the past 15 years working in Kentish Town, first at Bumblebee Natural Foods in Brecknock Road and then Earth Natural Foods in Kentish Town Road, where he has served customers for the past decade.
While speaking to the New Journal from the Verne Immigration Removal Centre last month, Mr Jankovic detailed his affinity with NW5.
“Here in Kentish Town, this is the first time in my life that I actually have a feeling of living in a neighbourhood, of being part of a community,” he 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. If you don’t mind me saying so assertively, this is my place. Why is it not my place? Because I don’t have the proper papers signed. I’m sorry, that’s my fault, I admit it.”