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Man living in UK for 56 years loses job over immigration papers

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Man living in UK for 56 years loses job over immigration papers” was written by Amelia Gentleman, for The Guardian on Monday 9th April 2018 14.35 UTC

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.

Michael Braithwaite with his one-year-old granddaughter Sieena Ray
Michael Braithwaite with his one-year-old granddaughter Sieena Ray. Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

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.”

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UK child deportations of 50s: ‘most catastrophic child abuse’ in memory


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “UK child deportations of 50s: ‘most catastrophic child abuse’ in memory” was written by Sandra Laville, for theguardian.com on Thursday 9th March 2017 15.54 UTC

The deportation of thousands of British children to Australia, Canada and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), created the most catastrophic child abuse legacy in living memory, the national inquiry into child sexual abuse has been told.

The author and social worker Margaret Humphreys, who exposed the scale and suffering of tens of thousands of British children taken from families under the child migrant scheme – a policy that relocated children to areas of the Commonwealth, from the 40s to the 70s – said the physical and sexual abuse, conditions of slavery and terror, removal of identities, and lies that suggested the youngsters’ parents were dead, amounted to a catalogue of crimes against the children.

“These are human rights violations,” she said. There had been collusion and cover-up by the institutions and agencies, who had kidnapped the children and put them into the hands of paedophiles. In a form of secondary abuse the same institutions who had taken the youngsters away had, in some cases, reacted with hostility when the grown-up children returned to find their families.

The removal of the identity of each child, and the fact that the children were taken so far away from anyone they knew and told they were orphans, aided the abuse, Humphreys said.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA ), in full public hearings, is investigating the sexual abuse of children who were removed from British institutions and families between 1947 and the 70s, and taken to Australia and Canada by various charities and churches, including Barnardos, the Fairbridge Society, and the Sisters of Nazareth.

The children, once abroad, were kept in farm schools, where they suffered brutality and sexual abuse, were used as slave labour and deprived of a proper education.

“The perpetrators knew there was no one for the children to turn to,” said Humphreys. “No one was going to visit them at weekends, no one was going to send them Christmas cards, and no one was going to celebrate their birthdays. So for the paedophiles this was a group of children where no one asked what was happening to them, and no one cared.”

Humphreys, who set up the Child Migrants Trust in 1987 has done more than any other individual to expose the way British children were taken from families and deported. In the last 25 years she has reunited more than a 1,000 individuals with their families in the UK.

Humphries said deported British children suffered the “greatest betrayal” because they were told their parents were dead when they were not. When she began helping individuals to find their families she started by looking for death certificates.

“In the early days people would write to me and say, ‘my parents have died, I am an orphan please help me find my family’. I spent a very, very, long time looking for death certificates of parents and of course there were no death certificates because they weren’t dead.”

Telling the children they were orphans, she said, took away all hope that anyone would come and get them, and stopped them asking questions.

Humphreys met one mother who told how she would visit her son every week in a children’s home in Liverpool. “She told me she went to see her child regularly every Saturday in the children’s home, she used to go with sweets. But on this particular Saturday she went and no children were there … someone told her they had gone to Australia.”

She found out they had left just one and a half hours before her arrival. She managed to get to Lime Street railway station as the train carrying the children was pulling away. “She ran on to the platform and saw the children on the train … she was screaming and crying, ‘get the children off, stop the train’. Her boy put his face to the window and shouted, ‘I’ll never forget you mum.’”

When Humphreys later traced other children who had been deported with the boy, they described seeing a woman running and screaming on the platform as the train pulled away. When the boy arrived in Australia he was told his mother had died in the war. But he knew that was wrong.

It took Humphreys and the Child Migrant trust a month to find the mother after the former child migrant, as an adult, turned to her for help.

“So all of those years, when he was growing up, when he was an adult, when he was getting married, having children, she was there all the time – but missing from his life.”

The IICSA inquiry continues.

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