An experienced special needs teaching assistant lost his job after his employers ruled that he was an illegal immigrant, despite the fact he has lived in the UK for more than 50 years.
Michael Braithwaite, who arrived in Britain from Barbados in 1961, had worked at a north London primary school for over 15 years when a routine check on his immigration status revealed he did not have an up-to-date identity document.
The personnel department got in touch to tell him that without a biometric card he could not continue to be employed. The 66-year-old lost his full-time job in 2017 after the local authority ruled he needed to submit documentary proof that he had the right to live in the UK. He has been trying for two years without success to get the Home Office to acknowledge that he is in Britain legally.
The unexpected immigration difficulties have pushed him close to a mental breakdown. “It made me feel like I was an alien. I almost fell apart with the stress,” he said.
Braithwaite arrived in London with his family when he was nine, when his father moved to work for the Post Office, and he has lived in the UK since. He had always assumed he was British, having attended primary school and secondary school here, and having worked continuously since leaving school. He married in London and has three British children and five grandchildren.
“I never applied for a British passport. We thought we were British,” he said. Because he arrived in the UK before 1973 he has an automatic permanent right to remain, but the introduction of the “hostile environment” policy by Theresa May as home secretary in 2013 has required employers, the NHS, Jobcentre staff and landlords to run checks for papers, causing problems for people who do not have documentary proof of their right to live in the UK.
Braithwaite is one of an emerging group of people who were born in Commonwealth countries and arrived in the UK as children who have discovered half a century later that they have serious and hard to fix immigration problems. Lawyers working for people in this situation say the level of documentary proof required by the Home Office is extremely high, with officials requesting to see a minimum of one, but preferably four, pieces of documentary evidence for every year spent in the UK. Often GP surgeries and schools that might have been able to provide documentary proof of their residence have since closed, and records destroyed.
Public anger over the emerging problem is rising. Patrick Vernon, editor of Black History Month magazine, has launched a petition calling on the Home Office to reduce the high burden of proof required from Windrush generation settlers who arrived from the Caribbean in the UK as children. “As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of Windrush, this creates a sour message about whether we are valued and respected. A lot of people are feeling very upset,” he said.
Fundraising efforts to help pay for cancer treatment for Albert Thompson (not his real name) who is in a similar situation to Braithwaite, raised more than £24,000 in five days. Thompson arrived from Jamaica as a teenager and has lived and worked in the UK continuously for 44 years but was denied NHS radiotherapy for prostate cancer last November.
Braithwaite was distraught at losing his job. “I had a good rapport with the children. The head said I was an asset to the school, but the HR department said I was illegal because I didn’t have a biometric card,” he said. A biometric card is a residence permit issued to non-British residents, with details of their immigration status. “I had no idea what a biometric card was. I had no idea there was a need to naturalise.”
He began attempting to untangle his immigration situation in 2016 when he first understood there was a problem. When it proved difficult to resolve quickly, he lost his job in February 2017. His lawyer said Home Office records showed he had the right to be in the UK, but officials repeatedly failed to issue him with documents to reflect this.
The latest letter from the Home Office, sent this month, told him he needed to provide further documentary evidence to show he was in the UK before 1973.
Guy Hewitt, the high commissioner for Barbados to the UK, said he would be “raising the case of his unjust treatment directly with the UK authorities”.
Highlighting the contribution that West Indian migrants made in the post-second world war era to the building of modern Britain, and given “the UK’s commitment to the Commonwealth”, Hewitt called on the government “to act with urgency and compassion to find a solution to the current treatment of some elderly, Caribbean-born, UK-residents as ‘illegal immigrants’ as a result of their irregular status”. He said such treatment exposed them to the risk of “destitution and detention, along with the possibility of deportation”.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We will be in touch with Mr Braithwaite very soon to assure him that we are looking to resolve his case as soon as possible and issue him with documentation confirming his status here. We value the contribution made by Commonwealth citizens who have made a life in the UK.”
Enny Choudhury, Braithwaite’s lawyer, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “For almost one year the Home Office has failed to issue the biometric card, without which he cannot work or move on with his life, causing uncertainty and distress.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Sarah O’Connor moved to Britain from Jamaica 51 years ago, when she was six, and has lived here ever since. Last year she was challenged by the benefits agency to prove she was in the country legally, unleashing a torrent of immigration-related problems. For the past nine months she has been left facing bankruptcy, afraid to open the front door in case it is the Home Office coming to deport her or bailiffs arriving to remove her property.
O’Connor is unable to provide documentary evidence to prove she is here legally. Without this paperwork, she has been unable to take up new work and has been refused unemployment benefits, leaving her without an income. She sold her car at the beginning of the year, but she is struggling to pay her rent and is falling further into debt.
She is one of a growing group of long-term UK residents who arrived as children from Commonwealth countries in the 1960s and are now facing complex problems as a result of the introduction by the government in 2013 of a hardline immigration policy known as “hostile environment”.
O’Connor’s difficulties emerged last summer when she lost her job in a computer shop where she had worked for 16 years. When she applied successfully for a number of new jobs, she found she was unable to take them up because they asked her for a British passport, which she does not have. When she went to the jobcentre to apply for benefits to tide her over while she tried to sort the problem out, she was told she was not eligible.
Having lived in the UK for more than half a century, attending primary and secondary school here, working continuously, paying taxes and national insurance, holding a driving licence and voting in general elections; having been married for 17 years to someone British and having had four children here (all of whom have British passports), she is puzzled as to why her immigration status is being questioned.
“It was the way they treated me because I didn’t have a British passport. I said I’ve had no reason to go out of the country so I’ve never applied for one. They made me feel like I’m not British. I came home and cried,” O’Connor said. Debt companies have written to say they will be visiting to see which of her belongings they can take away to sell at auction.
“I can’t get another job without proving I’m legal and I can’t get the documents to do that. The stress of it is making me ill. When the doorbell goes I worry if it’s not the debt enforcers it’s going to be the immigration people, telling me I don’t belong here and trying to send me back to a country I don’t know.”
Her difficulties came to light after media coverage of Paulette Wilson, who was sent to an immigration detention centre despite having been in the country for 50 years, and Albert Thompson (who has asked for his real name not to be revealed), who is currently not receiving cancer treatment after being told he would need to pay £54,000 for it, despite having lived in London for the past 44 years. Numerous other cases have emerged of people who have lost their jobs or been made homeless because they are unable to provide documentary evidence of their right to be in the UK.
O’Connor never applied for a British passport. “The furthest I’ve ever been is the Lake District. I didn’t know that I needed to have a naturalisation number; I didn’t even know what that was,” she said.
She has tried to sort out her lack of paperwork, but has been unable to pursue the first stage because it requires a £237 initial payment and the whole naturalisation process costs over £1,200 – money she does not have since she is unable to work. After O’Connor’s case was raised by the Guardian with the Home Office, an official called her on Wednesday and promised to send forms so she could apply to remain. When she said she was unable to pay the fee, another official called her back to say the fee could be waived for her.
She is bewildered by an offer of help that has come only when her case looked set to attract media attention, and she remains uncertain about whether she will be able to find enough documents to prove she has been here a lifetime. Initial attempts have proved unsuccessful. Her MP’s office contacted the Home Office on her behalf and was told: “I have searched our systems and can find no Home Office record for Ms O’Connor.”
O’Connor has contacted the National Archives to see if they can find a record of her immigration status and was told: “Unfortunately I could find no entry for your name.”
Sally Daghlian, the chief executive of Praxis Community Projects, which has supported more than 120 people in situations similar to O’Connor’s, said: “The burden of proof is astonishingly high. An individual has to produce a minimum of one but preferably four pieces of documentary evidence for every year they have been in the UK. Documents dating back decades must be sought from the tax office, DWP and other official sources. In many cases such records no longer exist.”
She said the introduction of the hostile environment was increasing the prevalence of racist decisions. “Non-immigration specialists (doctors, administrators, civil servants, landlords) are now required to check immigration status before delivering services. This inevitably leads to discriminatory requests for passports, as judgments are being made on the basis of colour, accent, ethnicity and can result in racist practices.”
In the 1970s and 80s O’Connor worked in a greengrocers and for Ford Dagenham as a cleaner, but she doesn’t have paperwork to prove it. “Wages weren’t paid straight into bank accounts then. I don’t have the payslips; I keep receipts and paper slips for six years – then I throw them away. If I didn’t the house would overflow with paperwork,” she said. “It’s so ridiculous. I see myself as British. The government was happy taking my taxes and national insurance payments for 30 years.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We understand these individuals may not have the relevant documentation to support their application, and so we work closely with applicants to consider alternative documentation to prove their ongoing residence. Those who have resided in the UK for an extended period but feel they may not have the correct documentation confirming their leave to remain should take legal advice.”
O’Connor said she was puzzled by the suggestion that she seek legal advice. “People in my situation can’t pay the fees because we’re not allowed to work. How can I get legal advice without money?”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
This is an urgent appeal as we are seeking funding to undertake a project
that we would never have dreamed would have been necessary, but unfortunately it is.
Children from the commonwealth who were invited to the UK along with their parents
as part of the UK’s recruitment drive in the colonies, are now in their retirement years facing deportation from the UK.
They have not committed any crime.
They entered the UK legally and were in fact invited and encouraged to relocate to the UK to help build post war Britain.
They have worked hard – Building our NHS and Transport system to name just a few industries and paid taxes in the UK for 50 plus years.
They are now at or nearing retirement age and have British children and grandchildren as well as their wider family friends and support systems in the UK.
Most of these fellow citizens arrived between the ages of 2 – 9 years old.
All entered the UK legally.
Many have never left the UK after arriving in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s as travelling for leisure purposes was not as common as it is now.
These children were depending on adults to apply for them to be naturalised so that they would officially become British Citizens. Some are only now discovering that this was necessary and never happened.
The 1971 Immigration Act gave people already settled in Britain Indefinite leave to Remain. These children are now adults and most have struggled to gather enough documents to convince the Home Office that they arrived before the cut off point. We are not sure if the same vigour used in the recruitment drive encouraging Commonwealth Citizens to bring their families to work and settle in Great Britain was used when advertising the cut off point to naturalise.
We now have our elderly residents being hauled into Immigration Removal Centres and facing deportation to countries some have never visited as adults, when they should be taking it easy in their retirement after giving their all to this nation.
We now have near retirement aged residents being refused cancer treatment, becoming homeless and dismissed from their place of work as well as being refused benefits or any recourse the the public funds which they have paid into for the past 50 plus years.
Families are being needlessly seperated
What can you do to help?
- Sign the petition below – Tell the government that you are in solidarity with these fellow residents and that the Home Office should take a more humane approach with these residents, allowing them a special category for naturalisation with less official paperwork as a burden of proof for naturalisation.
- Donate to support our outreach caseworker to help identify and support those at risk to get their paper work in order before they are taken into government custody. We are trying to raise 140k for a 24 month intensive project. Every little helps.
- If you’re a funding organisation or know of an individual or organisation that can support our cause – Please direct them to our Go Fund me link.
- Please email us information about any support for the destitute UK wide, as we are seeing people loose their homes and end up on the streets as they are now categorised as ‘illegal immigrants’.
- If you are aware of anyone at risk or who is actually going through this process please get in touch with their details so that we can assist them. All identifying information remains confidential and is only shared with the individuals permission.
Theresa May has refused to intervene in the case of Albert Thompson, the London cancer patient asked to pay £54,000 for treatment despite having lived in the UK for 44 years, as it emerged that there could be tens of thousands of people in a similarly uncertain immigration position.
Thompson, 63, is not receiving the radiotherapy treatment he needs for prostate cancer because he has been unable to provide officials with sufficient documentary evidence showing that he has lived in the UK continuously since arriving from Jamaica as a teenager in 1973. He is unable to pay the £54,000 fee.
May said responsibility for the decision to charge Thompson ahead of treatment lay with the Royal Marsden hospital. “No urgent treatment should ever be withheld or delayed by the NHS regardless of ability of willingness to pay,” she wrote in a letter to Jeremy Corbyn, who raised the issue at prime minister’s questions last week.
Regulations introduced last October require hospitals to check patients’ paperwork, including passports and proof of address, and charge upfront for their healthcare if they do not have documentary proof of eligibility, unless the treatment is deemed to be urgent. “The decision on whether his treatment is urgent or immediately necessary must rightly be made by the clinicians treating him,” May wrote.
The Royal Marsden has repeatedly said that Thompson’s radiotherapy was not urgent. This surprises some prostate cancer specialists, who are puzzled why treatment prescribed for cancer can subsequently be deemed non-urgent, once the question of ability to pay is raised.
Despite sympathising with “Mr Thompson and the worries he will be facing given his condition”, the prime minister said he needed to “evidence his settled status” in the UK.
Thompson – who has asked for his real name not to be used – is one of a growing group of long-term UK residents facing life-shattering problems as a result of the government’s hostile immigration environment, which has been particularly affecting people who arrived as children from Commonwealth countries.
Research released this week by academics at the University of Oxford-based Migration Observatory suggests that there could be up to 57,000 people potentially vulnerable to similar problems, because although they arrived from Commonwealth countries before 1971, they have never applied for a British passport or been naturalised. Their difficulties are only beginning to emerge now as the government’s tightened immigration regime inadvertently hits the wrong targets.
Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory, said: “This is an estimate of the population who arrived before 1971 but have not naturalised. It won’t be the case that all 57,000 can’t prove their legal status; we don’t know what share of them have problems with their paperwork and what proportion have everything in order. This is the maximum size of the population who are potentially at risk.”
Thompson’s problems echo those experienced by Paulette Wilson, who was sent last year to an immigration detention centre and threatened with deportation to Jamaica, despite having been in Britain for 50 years. The Guardian has highlighted the cases of numerous other people who have lost their jobs or been made homeless because they are unable to prove they are in the UK legally, despite having lived in the country for over half a century.
Thompson’s lawyer Jeremy Bloom, at Duncan Lewis, said: “The application that Mr Thompson needs to make to regularise his stay is complex and requires a great deal of supporting evidence. Meanwhile, Mr Thompson is being refused potentially life-saving treatment unless he can pay for it. Theresa May does not appear to place much value on the contribution that Mr Thompson has made to the UK since 1973.”
Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, highlighted news this week that the Royal Marsden foundation trust predicted it would receive an income of £210m over two years from providing private healthcare. “It’s astonishing that this man still hasn’t been able to access the treatment he needs. This is a trust which is making hundreds of millions from private patients, yet seemingly refusing to provide urgent cancer care,” he said.
A spokesperson for the the Royal Marsden said a cancer specialist would contact Thompson to discuss his treatment while he attempted to get his papers in order. Profits from private treatment were “ploughed back into the NHS for the benefit of our patients” and this had nothing to do with the the trust’s “legal obligation to check eligibility for access to NHS care”, the spokesperson said.
“It is disappointing that NHS staff, who are committed to public service, should be criticised for being professional and fair in applying the principles required of them on eligibility.”
Thompson, who worked as a mechanic and paid taxes for three decades before he became ill, has never applied for a British passport because he thought he had no need to; the Jamaican passport he arrived with was lost many years ago. He has also struggled to prove his eligibility for housing support and is currently living in a hostel. Over 87,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to give him treatment.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Jeremy Corbyn has written to Theresa May about Londoner Albert Thompson’s £54,000 bill for cancer treatment, saying the government risks allowing a patient to die because of difficulties proving immigration status.
Thompson, 63, who has lived continuously in the UK for 44 years since arriving from Jamaica as a teenager in 1973, is not receiving the radiotherapy he needs for prostate cancer because the London hospital where he was due to start treatment last November told him he needed to provide proof of residency or pay upfront for his care.
He was unable to supply officials with required documents, so he was told he needed to find £54,000. Thompson, who has asked for his real name not to be used, is increasingly worried about the potential impact on his health of the delay of more than four months. The Labour leader called on ministers to “intervene immediately in his case to ensure that this man gets access to the care that he needs”.
Corbyn said Thompson’s situation was not unique and he was dealing with a similar case in his constituency, which he had also raised with the Home Office. He said the cases were a direct result of new regulations introduced last October requiring hospital departments and community health services to check every patient’s paperwork, including passports and proof of address, and charge upfront for their healthcare if they did not have documentary proof of eligibility.
The case raised the prospect that many undocumented British citizens were being denied free NHS treatment, and that the principle of the universal NHS, free at the point of need, was being eroded, he wrote.
“Every patient, including British citizens, can be asked about their residency status and made to prove they are entitled to free NHS care,” he said. He quoted concerns raised by the shadow spokesperson for health and social care, Philip Hunt, who said in the Lords last year that, as a result of the new regulations, “many people who legitimately live here and have every right to NHS treatment are going to be challenged by the NHS”.
Thompson, who worked as a mechanic before he became ill, has never applied for a British passport because he had no need to, but the Jamaican passport he arrived with was lost many years ago. In the tightened hostile immigration environment, launched by Theresa May in 2013, he has struggled to prove his eligibility for housing support and free healthcare.
A spokesperson for the hospital said Thompson “continues to be treated by his GP as directed by the cancer specialist. His radiotherapy is not urgent. We are very sorry this has caused Mr Thompson distress and uncertainty and are working hard to try to resolve this as quickly as possible.”
Thompson said he had not seen a GP about his prostate cancer treatment since early last year.
Doctors have expressed confusion at the decision to classify the radiotherapy as non-urgent. Joe Rylands, a spokesperson for Docs Not Cops, a group of healthcare professionals campaigning to protect free access to healthcare for all people, said: “I cannot foresee any circumstances whereby a patient has been deemed to need ‘discretionary’ radiotherapy for prostate cancer. Either they need it by team decision, when it is potentially life-saving, or they don’t. To withdraw it on the basis of nationality appears unethical and incompatible with the principles of the NHS.”
A Downing Street spokesperson said the prime minister had received the letter and would respond in due course. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Our guidance makes clear that urgent and immediately necessary care should never be withheld or delayed.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
‘I’ve been here for 50 years’: the scandal of the former Commonwealth citizens threatened with deportation
This article titled “‘I’ve been here for 50 years’: the scandal of the former Commonwealth citizens threatened with deportation” was written by Amelia Gentleman, for The Guardian on Wednesday 21st February 2018 14.25 UTC
For the past year, Renford McIntyre has been homeless, mostly sleeping on a sofa in an unheated industrial unit in Dudley. Although he has lived in the UK for almost 50 years, and spent 35 years working and paying taxes as a tool setter, a delivery man in the meat industry and an NHS driver, he has been told that he is not British – and consequently is neither permitted to work nor eligible for any government support.
McIntyre, 64, has no shower and nowhere to cook, and has to visit friends if he wants to eat hot food or wash. “It’s an appalling place to live. I’m a proud man; I’m embarrassed at my age to be living like this,” he says.
He was surprised and confused to be told he was not British. He arrived in the UK in 1968 by plane from Jamaica. He was 14 and had come to join his mother, who had come over to become a nurse, and his father, who was working as a crane driver. “I’ve been here for almost 50 years, I’ve worked night and day, I’ve paid into the kitty – but now no one wants to help me,” he says.
In 2014, a routine request from his final employers to update paperwork revealed that he didn’t have a passport and had never naturalised in the UK. He was sacked. Unable to find new work without papers, he became depressed, and then homeless. Dudley council said he was not eligible for emergency housing because he had no right to be in the country. Similarly, he has been told he cannot sign on for benefits.
He has gathered together paperwork showing 35 years of National Insurance contributions, with the support of the Refugee and Migrant Centre in Wolverhampton, but the Home Office has returned the application, requesting further evidence. “It makes me so angry. I’ve always worked. I’m a grafter. I can’t explain how bad it makes me feel,” he says.
McIntyre is part of a largely invisible group of people who arrived in the UK as children from Commonwealth countries more thn half a century ago and grew up here believing themselves to be British, only to discover recently, in a newly hardened immigration climate, that they are without the necessary papers, and unable to prove their right to be here. The scale of the problem is only just emerging as more long-settled, retirement-age individuals come forward with details about brutal treatment at the hands of the Home Office.
Recently, the Guardian highlighted extreme cases of people who have been sent to immigration removal centres, and prepared for deportation to countries they have not visited since childhood. Paulette Wilson, a former cook who served food to MPs in the House of Commons, was sent to Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre last October and taken to Heathrow for deportation to Jamaica, a country she has not visited since she was 10 (51 years ago), and where she has no surviving relatives. A last-minute legal intervention prevented her removal, and following media coverage, she has been granted a residency permit.
A number of others in similarly difficult positions have since come forward. Some, like McIntyre, have been made homeless by the Home Office’s refusal to accept that they have a right to be living here; others have opted to live a life beneath the radar, to avoid deportation; while others have struggled to get cancer treatment, amid questions over their eligibility for NHS care. High commissioners of Commonwealth countries are concerned about the number of elderly former Commonwealth citizens, who have been here since childhood, facing similar problems and have called on the UK government to show more compassion.
Judy Griffith, 63, flew from Barbados in 1963, when she was nine to join her parents who had been persuaded to emigrate here by a recruitment appeal for workers to drive buses in Britain. Her mother bought her a pair of woolly slippers to keep out the Bedfordshire cold, and enrolled her in primary school. For 52 years she has studied, worked and paid taxes in the UK, employed variously by the Metropolitan police and Camden council, so it came as a shock when a Jobcentre employee told her: “As far as we’re concerned, you’re an illegal immigrant.”
Griffith has found herself in an impossible situation. Because her status as a British citizen was under question, she was unable to work and could not travel. When her mother became sick in Barbados in 2016, Griffith was unable to visit her; when she died, she could not attend the funeral. She has been under pressure from the Jobcentre to find work, but every time she successfully interviews for a job, employers cannot take her on because she has no passport. Without work she has got into thousands of pounds worth of arrears on her flat in London, and narrowly escaped eviction before Christmas.
She has been trying to resolve her predicament for years, repeatedly crashing up against Home Office intransigence. In a last-ditch attempt to solve the situation, she spent five hours waiting in a Home Office processing centre on 27 December, to be told that although officials believed her claim was valid, she was “not on the system”. A letter stated that new checks needed to be made, adding: “Please note it is no longer possible to make an enquiry in person. Please telephone the number on this letter in the first instance if you need to contact us.” There was no telephone number on the letter.
“They keep saying that I am not on their system – but of course I can’t be on their system because when I came here in 1963 there were no computers,” she says, enraged by the catch-22. “My mother died in 2016. I couldn’t travel to see her, or take part in her funeral. It really hurt me. It is the unfairness and injustice of it that upsets me more than anything.”
Griffith’s problems began a few years ago when she sent off her Barbadian passport, which had a leave-to-remain-in-the-UK stamp inside, to an agency as part of a job application. In due course, the agency sent back the passport, but it never arrived. When she finally managed to find someone to talk to at the Post Office, Griffith was told that the postman had been mugged, and all that day’s post stolen.
“I wasn’t that worried about it. I thought: I’ve been here all these years, been to school here, I’ve worked here and paid taxes all my life; my children were all born here and pay taxes.” Barbados became independent in 1966, leaving people who had traveled here with a requirement to naturalise if they wanted to remain; however, this was not something she was aware of, and it has only been with the tightening of immigration rules introduced by this government that it has become necessary. “If you can’t work and support your family, how are you meant to live? It affects you mentally, physically and spiritually,” she says. “I don’t know if I am am going to be snatched from my bed in the night and deported.”
Attempts by Jeremy Corbyn, her MP, to untangle the situation came to nothing, and after three years trying to find a solution she was beginning to lose hope. But when I contacted the Home Office, staff said she had been “issued with documentation confirming she has indefinite leave to remain here”. Shortly before publication on Wednesday morning a package arrived at her flat with papers authorising her stay. She said she was in tears of relief (and gratitude towards the Camden Law Centre for their help), but also furious at the prolonged ordeal. “I feel a sense of anger because of the humiliation I’ve had to go through to get something which should have been my right. I don’t think the Home Office realise how much I’ve suffered,” she said.
The Jamaican high commissioner Seth George Ramocan says he believes there are a significant number of people grappling with similar difficulties. “We don’t know how many there are, primarily because they are unaware of their status, or lack of it. Most believe that they are OK, that they are British. People are thrown into crisis when they find out,” he says. “When you are in this situation you cannot get a job, healthcare, a place to live. It locks you out of the system.”
Jay (who has asked for his full name not to be printed) came from Grenada in 1966, when he was nine, on his brother’s passport to join his father, who was working nights in a sheet metal plant, and his mother, who worked as a dinner lady and in a jam factory. He has become aware that he needs to naturalise formally, after 52 years in the UK, but the process is prohibitively expensive and he is worried that he does not have all the documentary evidence required. Determined not to risk being deported or detained, he has decided instead to live under the radar, avoiding all contact with the state, despite having the legal right to be in the UK. This unresolved status makes him nervous. “You see immigration vans – they are often parked up the back streets here, and you think they might be after you. It is always at the back of your mind.”
Hubert Howard, 61, has had a similarly traumatic experience. He travelled to the UK from Jamaica with his mother when he was three, and has never lived anywhere else. He, too, was first mystified and later enraged when he was told six years ago that he was an illegal immigrant with no right to live here.
Because the Home Office had ruled him illegal, his employers, the Peabody Trust, were obliged to make him redundant, despite the fact that he was a trusted and highly regarded employee who had been with them for a decade. The years he spent working as a maintenance worker for British Rail, a plumber and later as a senior caretaker for the housing association, and the tax he had paid over 35 years of working life, counted for nothing.
His mother returned to Jamaica when she retired, and Howard’s problems emerged when he wanted to visit her urgently when she became ill in 2005. He applied for a passport, but his application was rejected because he had never naturalised. He hadn’t known that this was necessary. His mother died without him seeing her in 2006.
When Theresa May announced the introduction of a “really hostile environment” for illegal immigrants in 2012, his life became very complicated. “Peabody wanted to see the passport that I came in with, but my mum had taken it. Immigration was swooping all over the workplace,” he says. “My employers were told by the Home Office that they had to get rid of me, otherwise they would get fined. All I needed was for the Home Office to say I was legal, but they said I was an overstayer and I didn’t have status. I tried to argue they were wrong. I left my job in 2012.”
Since losing his job he has battled to get unemployment benefits. To begin with he thought he would be back in work quickly but he soon realised that it was going to be impossible without papers. In 2013, he received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions saying he was not entitled to benefits because he had no status. In 2015, he received a letter from the government contrator Capita telling him he had no status, and informing him that he needed to leave the country.
The Home Office later acknowledged verbally that he has settled status; however, he has never had written confirmation. He remains worried that the lack of clarity means he is vulnerable to renewed attempts to force him to leave. He managed to get a Jamaican passport in 2012. “I can leave the country on a Jamaican passport, but I can’t come back.”
Howard, McIntyre and Griffith all have a legal right to stay in the UK because the 1971 Immigration Act gave people who had already settled in Britain indefinite leave to remain, but all have struggled to gather enough documents to convince the Home Office that they arrived before the cut-off point.
“They basically messed up my life,” Howard says. “I had a steady job. They took my job away, stating quite clearly I had no status in this country. It broke my heart losing my job with Peabody. It was the best job I was ever in. When my mum passed away, I wasn’t there, and I still have not been at her graveside. I haven’t left the country since I was four, not even to go to France or Ireland.
“The people they have targeted have all worked and contributed. I don’t think this is a mistake. I think they are deliberately doing it. I’ve paid my tax and insurance. The Home Office should know that. The whole system stinks because there is no one to help us. That’s what is hurting me most. When I started this, I was entitled to legal aid, but they took it away. I’ve got no one to turn to.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
DSN dropped of emergency supplies including food, beverages, childrens clothes and shoes.
Emergency supplies can be taken to:
Brixton Soup Kitchen
Brixton Dominoes Community Centre
297-299 Coldharbour Lane
Our thoughts go out to the victims of this tragedy.
Just over a year ago I’d found out that the former Home Secretary now Prime Minister Theresa May was barren.
Over her six years reign as Home Secretary she had amended the Human Rights Act over 46,000 times.
Any one who comment a crime of any sort or a minor breach in the Law, under the amended version of the 2007 immigration Law they are now liable for automatic deportation.
As a result of Theresa May 46,000 amendment to the Human Rights Act, families are being ripped apart, separated from one another.
In a lot of cases, people have been removed from the United Kingdom back to a their native country which they have left since they were toddlers and have no knowledge or recollections of.
No disrespect at all to the women out there who can’t have children. I’m sure some of you would have been brilliant parents.
Having said that, when former Prime Minister David Cameron appointed Theresa May as Home Secretary this was the beginning of modern day genocide in the United Kingdom. How could someone who can’t have children, someone who don’t know or ever experienced the maternal / human connection between two people, a child or children to be in charge of Human rights??
A lot of people may disagree with me, however, it’s my opinion.
Andrea Leadsom who was in the race for the Prime Ministerial role said in her campaign that Theresa May wasn’t fit become Prime Minister as she wasn’t a mother. She don’t know or understand families and family life. This was a true and fair statement, however, the hierarchies forced her to withdraw from the race because of her comment.
Theresa May appointment as Home Secretary was like; Adolf Hitler been the head of the Jewish Church. Appointing a paedophile to run a after school club.
I live in the UK for over twenty years. I’ve been married for twenty two years with four children and two grandchildren. I had an indefinite leave to remain revoked after I’d served time in prison for drug offence.
During my time in custody, I’d completed over thirty five course. Three of those were to address my offending behaviour. All the others I’d done off my own back to better myself. I had embarrassed the rehabilitation process to the fullness, however, this didn’t count for nothing when it came to preventing my removal from my family and the UK.
The probation service who are in charge of offenders rehabilitation progress inside and out side of prison deemed me low risk on every level there is. However, the Home Office who haven’t got any knowledge or professional training in supervisor role regarding ex offenders deemed me and all the other foreign nationals who committed an offence as high risk to the public /community.
I wad told by the Home office and the immigration judges that I can raise my children via Skype contact.
Again, I strongly believe this is a act of modern day genocide in the United Kingdom.
Grace Foods with Brunel University and The Reach Society sponsoring a scholarship aimed at young men of Caribbean heritage
Grace Foods in partnership with Brunel University and The Reach Society
are sponsoring a scholarship aimed at young men of Caribbean heritage
Also included will be a 10 week internship in year 1 or year 2 at Grace Foods
Grace Foods will pay the cost of tuition at Brunel
If you all know any bright young British Caribbean men please alert them to this
opportunity for more information please contact Dr. Dwain Neil of the Reach Society on email@example.com or phone
07949-431-992 or you can purchase this weeks Jamaican Gleaner