Anthonell Peccoo: young Bristol hairdresser threatened with deportation

Barbershop owner Anthonell is under threat of being deported to a country he can’t even remember

What first comes to mind when you think of the word ‘immigrant’? For those of us around Anthonell, immigrant means so many things: hard-working, generous, empathetic by way of personal struggle and intelligent in more ways than just academic. But now Anthonell Peccoo, owner of a much-loved Bristol business, is facing deportation to a country he can’t even remember.

Anthonell Peccoo first arrived in the UK from Jamaica in January 2001, aged 6. His mother left him with his father and a grandmother he had never met. Anthonell’s family lacked the stability needed to raise a child, and he spent his early years between London and Bristol. Moved into care aged 8, the family that supported him struggled financially and were already raising a child with severe learning difficulties. In a conversation with Anthonell, he suggested how private care might be improved for other children. ‘There should be some sort of follow up each year to see how the child is getting on and has settled into their home,’ he said. ‘Just ticking boxes can be a problem, leading to children either taking their own lives or abusing someone else’s when they get older.’ Despite experiencing so much adversity in early life, he still managed to make friends and settle into a school where he gained his GCSEs.

Anthonell went on to spend two years at college studying hairdressing. It aligned with everything he loved.

Anthonell went on to spend two years at college studying hairdressing. It aligned with everything he loved. ‘I was a shy kid, so interacting with people one-on-one was perfect for me,’ he shares. ‘Seeing people open up was great and to then create art sculptures was the cherry on top. I love watching people walk out with their shoulders back and confidence in their step.’ Unfortunately, more employment was difficult to acquire despite having his National Insurance Number. Bristol’s Learning Partnership West supported Anthonell as he worked hard on his CV and attended the Jobcentre. Unbeknownst to him, however, his paperwork had not been completed as a child so he was not eligible to work in the UK.

Let down by the system, Anthonell turned to selling cannabis as his only means of income. It was during this period that a group attempted to attack him and steal his belongings. Anthonell was physically assaulted and defended himself by hitting someone that was behind him. This person was a minor. Anthonell was sentenced, and his philanthropic journey started with some support after leaving prison. ‘I received support through MentorMe, a Christian charity that helps rehabilitate ex-offenders, and volunteered with LoveBristol, another Christian charity.’ He also helped the homeless. ‘I cleaned in the kitchen where the homeless would come and eat at the Wild Goose Café. There would be times where we would feed them and I’d cut their hair.’ He added that his extra help was ‘self-care and sense of self-worth’ for him, and ‘knowing something could change in that person if they can see themselves a little differently in the mirror.’ Anthonell also volunteered for Happytat, until one day his manager suggested helping him set up a business.

‘We got a call. A letter had arrived. His asylum to stay in this country had been rejected. My mind cracked and my throat was heavy.’

This is how The Second Combing, Anthonell’s barber shop on Bristol’s Stokes Croft, was created in 2018. April 28th was when things changed for him, and his partner Gracie. Gracie explains. ‘We had gone to HighRise for our friend’s birthday. It was the first time we had gone out this year and we were so excited. Whilst we were there, we got a call. A letter had arrived. His asylum to stay in this country had been rejected. My mind cracked and my throat was heavy. Seeing the absolute panic in my strong man’s eyes, a massive feeling of grief fell over me. Anthonell needs to be here. Stokes Croft and Bristol at large would be a very miserable place without him. All these people are not exaggerating.’

As a non-citizen Anthonell cannot own a home, open a bank account, or even get an ID, despite making priceless contributions to his community. ‘It affects me so much that I haven’t got a bank account to do normal things,’ says Anthonell. ‘I can’t get alcohol from the shop because if they ID me as a 26-year-old and I’d have to explain to them why I haven’t got any. It’s embarrassing. I feel hopeless that I can’t get the things I want in my life even though Gracie reassures me.’

Few people have the drive and self-efficacy to do what Anthonell has done, and his kind nature allowed him to form a multitude of connections across Bristol. Anthonell’s partner, Gracie, told me what it would mean to her to have Anthonell stay with her. ‘For Anthonell to gain his citizenship is for me to live without fear and sorrow that the love of my life could be ripped away from me at any point. To not be in heart-wrenching agony every time he has to go sign at the police station – that this may be the week he gets detained and I am no longer there to hold his hand. It would mean that we are able to follow our dreams and go explore without being tethered, create and grow our business building a better start for other children with amazing minds who need a leg up like Anthonell did. To just live like two people in love without deportation resting on our shoulders.’ Please help us save Anthonell Peccoo.

Sign the petition to help stop Anthonell’s deportation here.

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