The human impact of Theresa May’s hostile environment policies

As devastation caused by Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ to the Windrush generation continues to emerge, it becomes clear that the true scale of pain inflicted spans far wider

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Sunday 22 April 2018 11:06 BST
'They were going to send me back to Jamaica. I’ve never been to Jamaica': Son of Windrush immigrant threatened with deportation

The outcry over the Windrush scandal has unearthed the devastating effect of the government’s self-proclaimed “hostile” immigration policies on some Caribbean migrants who were welcomed into the country before 1971.

While individuals from this group have been at the forefront of the story so far, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Home Office’s “inhumane” approach to cutting immigration spans far beyond only those who arrived on the Windrush.

People from a plethora of nationalities and backgrounds in Britain have been stung by Theresa May’s hostile environment.

Here, some of these individuals tell The Independent how their lives were devastated when they were told by the Home Office – often in error – that they were no longer welcome.

Irene Kaali

Ms Kaali, who was born in Bradford and now lives in Carlisle, was told she was not eligible for British citizenship because her parents – who moved from Tanzania shortly before her birth – did not have indefinite leave to remain when she was born.

Despite the fact that she has grown up, studied and worked in Britain, the Home Office informed the 24-year-old that she had “no automatic claim” to British citizenship, and that if she wanted to apply, she would have to pay £1,163 plus an admin fee of £80.

For the first time, I truly know what it feels like to be segregated – cast out by the people I had trusted to protect me. I thought that we had moved on from any discrimination, yet here it is, still prevalent in 2018.

I felt extremely frustrated because the very same people weren’t doing anything to help. Nobody around me really understood first-hand how much of a profound effect it had on my life. Losing work opportunities and not being able to fully pursue the things I had been working towards for so many years left me feeling like my efforts were pointless.

To question yourself, your place in life and in this country, is a stress that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Ahmed Sedeeq

Originally from Mosul in Iraq, where he was in danger due to being an atheist, Mr Sedeeq was in the final year of his computer science doctorate at the University of Sheffield when he was detained by visa and immigration officers during a routine reporting session at the Home Office on 18 December.

The 30-year-old had initially come to the UK on a student visa, but following miscommunication with the Home Office – which had reportedly told him his visa was still valid – he said he ended up overstaying it without realising. After public pressure, he was released and told he could apply for a visa – but the Home Office has since lost his application.

The fact that even when they released me the Home Office told me I’m still subject to detention and deportation at any time is very daunting. And now, about three months after I applied for a discretionary visa and a fresh claim for asylum, it turns out they have lost my new asylum application.

I phoned them and they gave me the deadline of 18 May to submit the same papers. In the meantime, three days ago university sent me an email asking about my asylum and gave me until 9 May as a deadline. My lawyer is now having to write a letter to my university to explain the reason for the delay. I didn’t expect the Home Office to lose a whole bunch of papers.

It’s been really difficult to concentrate and get back to the mentality of doing research and study. It’s very challenging. I feel frustrated. I get moments where I ask why myself why I’m still fighting this, but there’s nothing I can do. I’ve done everything I can. I’m using all the energy left in me.


Jay, in his twenties, has been repeatedly denied a British passport because of a lack of clarity over his mother’s status

Despite being the son of a Windrush immigrant, Jay, who was born in the UK, was forced to declare himself as “stateless” after he was threatened with deportation by the Home Office.

Now in his 20s, the young man has been repeatedly denied a British passport because of a lack of clarity over his mother’s status after she came from Jamaica as a child. It started when Jay’s foster parents discovered they were unable to get him a passport to take him on holiday. Ever since, Jay says has been fighting a “constant battle” to be recognised as British.

Jay has spent hundreds of pounds and sent dozens of letters over the years in attempt to secure his status, but it was only when The Independent reported it that the Home Office informed him that he would finally be recognised as British.

It made me feel very excluded from society. It’s almost like you don’t feel a part of what they’re a part of. This is a country where everyone is meant to feel welcome, and I’m not illegal here, I’m perfectly legal being here.

They said they were going to send me back to Jamaica. I’ve never been to Jamaica. In order to stay here I had to declare myself as a stateless person. It feels embarrassing to be classed as a stateless person. The word alone – it’s very degrading.

It’s hindered me a lot. There were certain trips that the school and the college would organise, which I obviously couldn’t go on. I haven’t been able to meet certain business goals and compete in certain competitions to develop in my career.

It’s made me feel very stuck and very isolated at times – very alone.

Eva Johanna Holmberg

Eva Johanna Holmberg

Finnish historian Eva Holmberg, who works and pays taxes in the UK, was told by the government that she had one month to leave the country in what turned out to be an administrative error affecting scores of people.

The research fellow in British culture at Queen Mary University of London received a letter from the Home Office in August stating that the decision had been taken to “remove her from the UK” because she had “failed to provide evidence that [she was] exercising Treaty rights”.

It later emerged that she was one of around 100 EU nationals mistakenly informed by the Home Office that they were to be deported from the UK.

It is probably difficult to British people to understand how much emotional energy it takes for people to fight what must seem to them random deportation cases but were actually logical and intended outcomes of the hostile environment.

Most people have not had to deal with the Home Office themselves, don’t know that you can’t just phone them, or manage the situation in any easy way, unless like me you happened to have access to legal advice and resources, and friends who could help me get in touch with media.

It is easy for Theresa May or Amber Rudd to advice the Home Office to just deport people first and then deal with complaints after. They know very well how hard it is for people to fight a system that has been built to defeat them, especially if they don’t have the time, money and support they need.

Opelo Kgari

Opelo Kgari, 28, has been issued removal directions twice and had them cancelled both times within hours of the flight time – an experience she said was ‘traumatising’

Despite the fact that 27-year-old Opelo Kgari has lived in the UK since she arrived from Botswana when she was 13, she and her mother Florence were detained in Yarl’s Wood removal centre at the end of last year.

Since then, the Home Office has attempted to remove the women twice, but was blocked both times by MPs and solicitors. Ms Kgari went to school in the UK and has volunteered in the charity sector throughout her adult life. She remains in Yarl’s Wood.

I don’t have much to smile about now. It’s really difficult now to find something to smile about. You have to find joy somewhere, but the situation just gets harder and harder. I sometimes feel like I can’t carry on.

I’m pretty certain that I’ll need to see a well-trained professional when I get out of Yarl’s Wood to go over the past few months of what I’ve been through. It’s extremely naive to think it won’t affect me.

Being here is just mental torture, and the Home Office does this so they can tire you out and wear you out. It’s not okay to put people through this. No one should ever have to go through anything in this proximity.

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