Windrush generation: ‘A nightmare, and it’s not over yet’

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    Whitfield Francis with his eldest daughterImage copyright Helen Cappasso
    Image caption Whitfield Francis – here with his eldest daughter Maria – came to England with his parents at the age of nine

    Some members of the so-called Windrush generation, who arrived in the UK decades ago as children, have been incorrectly identified as illegal immigrants. Here are some of their stories.

    Whitfield Francis was born in Jamaica in 1958 and came to England with his parents at the age of nine.

    He only realised there was an issue over his right to remain in the UK when he tried to change jobs four years ago.

    The 59-year-old was told by his new employer that he needed proof of his status – something he didn’t have – and he hasn’t been able to work since.

    The father-of-four says he can’t afford to pay for a biometric residence permit or for legal help.

    He said: “No-one has given me any help.

    “I’ve found out that if I haven’t got these certain documents, my children could be affected. They may not be eligible for a British passport although they were born in Britain.”

    His former partner Helen Cappasso says his situation “nearly destroyed him” and being unable to provide for their four children has “broken his heart”.

    She explains: “It has been a terrible time for us. Our children were scared they would not see their dad again every time he went to try and sort things out.

    “I cannot express here what a nightmare it’s been, and it’s not over yet.”

    Mr Francis, who is currently “sofa surfing” in Birmingham as he is unable to rent somewhere to live, says the government’s pledge to help those affected had given him renewed hope that he would finally be able to work again.

    But Ms Cappasso says the Home Office hadn’t gone far enough and people should be “fully compensated”.

    “I’m still going through hell”

    Image caption Paulette Wilson, here alongside her daughter Natalie, spent time at an immigration detention centre

    Paulette Wilson came to Britain from Jamaica aged 10 in the late 1960s. Now 61, she says she was confused when she received a letter saying she was in the country illegally.

    “I just didn’t understand it and I kept it away from my daughter for about two weeks, walking around in a daze thinking ‘why am I illegal?'”

    Her daughter Natalie Barnes booked an appointment with the Home Office and was told her mother had six months to leave the country.

    Ms Wilson then spent two years with the threat of deportation hanging over her, including a week at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, which she describes as “a nightmare”.

    Her MP and a local charity intervened to prevent her removal, and she has since been given a biometric residence permit which proves she can stay in the country.

    “It’s not ended because I’ve just got a card saying I have a right to stay in England – I still have to renew it in 2024,” she says.

    Home Secretary Amber Rudd has apologised for the treatment of the Windrush generation. Ms Wilson says the apology was “a good thing”, but asks: “What about all the other people who were sent away before my case became big?”

    She adds: “It’s just upsetting to think that an ordinary person like me could go through something like that. I’m still going through hell at the moment.

    “It’s really hard for me to put it in words… I’m still hurt, that’s all I can say.”

    “Sometimes I just want to give up”

    Image caption Sonia Williams says she doesn’t accept the government’s apology

    Sonia Williams, who came to the UK from Barbados in 1975, aged 13, has been fighting to prove she is British for four years.

    She was made redundant in 2014, and lost her driving licence in 2016.

    “I can’t drive, I can’t work, I can’t claims benefits, I can’t do anything,” she says. “Sometimes I just want to give up.

    “I came here as a minor to join my mum, dad, my sister and my brother.

    “My mum’s got citizenship, my dad had right to remain. So I just presumed I had all that, because I was leaving Barbados to come and live with my family. I wasn’t just coming on holiday.”

    She says she feels “stressed” and “numb”, and doesn’t accept the government’s apology.

    “They have been giving me the run-around. No-one’s telling me where to go or what to do.

    “I’m not working, I can’t claim benefits, so where am I going to get this money to apply for these things that they’re asking me for?”

    The Home Office said it would get in touch with Ms Williams.

    “I just thought they were mixing me up”

    Image caption Anthony Bryan came to the UK on his older brother’s passport

    Anthony Bryan has lived in the UK for more than 50 years and worked as a painter and decorator.

    He lost his job when he received a letter informing him he had no right to remain in the UK.

    He says: “It was a shock because I have always thought I was legal, I was British. I have been here from when I was eight. I didn’t give it another thought.

    “I just thought they were mixing me up. Unfortunately, it was me they were after, and me they were locking up.”

    Mr Bryan came to Britain from Jamaica in 1965 when he was eight years old on his older brother’s passport.

    Last year, he was held in a detention centre twice for nearly three weeks.

    Officials have now given him leave to remain and he has returned to work so “everything is slowly getting back together” he says, although he has been left in debt after being without a job for two years.

    Mr Bryan, who is still waiting for legal paperwork to confirm his right to stay in the UK, says he thinks the Windrush generation deserve better treatment from the government.

    “I would like to see them treating our Jamaican citizens like they are somebody and not nobody. That’s all. I’m not asking for much.”

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