Windrush scandal victim dies months after quitting UK for ‘fresh start’ in Jamaica

“Anthony gave selflessly. He pushed past the trauma of his experience and told his story to help force change for others,” a tribute to the former Army veteran reads.

Nadine White
Race Correspondent
Tuesday 16 April 2024 13:12 BST
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams (Windrush Lives)

Anthony Williams, a former army veteran and victim of the Windrush scandal, has died months after quitting the UK for a “fresh start” in Jamaica.

Mr Williams, 60, passed away from liver cancer in hospital, although those closest to him didn’t know he was unwell, according to his friends.

Born in Jamaica, Mr Williams moved to the UK in 1971, aged 7, and settled in Birmingham. However, in 2013, after serving for over a decade in the British army, he was wrongly stripped of his rights as a British citizen and plunged into destitution by the UK government.

Barred from NHS access because of the home office’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, Mr Williams was forced to use pliers to pull out his own teeth after developing a gum infection.

Loved ones of Mr Williams, a founding member of the Windrush Lives campaign group, have launched a Gofundme campaign to raise money for his funeral and associated costs including administrative and legal matters.

“Anthony gave selflessly. He pushed past the trauma of his experience and told his story to help force change for others, including giving detailed evidence to members of Parliament,” the fundraising page reads.

“That in part led to the home affairs select committee’s recommendation that the Windrush compensation scheme be removed from the home office and made independent. He gave myriad interviews to raise awareness of the Home Office’s failings and supported others in his position with a level of engagement and compassion that would have been beaten out of most who suffered as he had.

“His life mattered. Help us honour his legacy and give him the send-off he deserves.”

Mr Williams, a former fitness instructor, is survived by his nephew, Gavin, who is preparing to fly out to Jamaica to organise his funeral.

(PA Archive)

Speaking to The Independent, campaigner Patrick Vernon, who knew Mr Williams, reflected on his life.

“This is really sad news. Anthony was angry about how he was treated by the home office especially because he had served in the armed forces and thought he would be treated with respect and dignity when he left. But instead, he got caught up in the scandal,” he said.

“So, it wasn’t surprising when he decided to relocate to Jamaica to enjoy the rest of his life.

“I personally don’t think Anthony got the right amount of compensation, like other Windrush survivors who haven’t received the money they fully deserve. That’s why we have to campaign for the compensation scheme to be completely revamped and removed from the home office, as well.

“We need to do this in his name, and other than the people's names who have died over the last several years.”

At least 53 people who were affected by the Windrush scandal have died, according to official data, and anecdotal accounts suggest that a number of these deaths were linked to high blood pressure illnesses and cancer.

Mr Vernon is now calling for an independent inquiry to examine all the deaths connected with the Windrush scandal.

“Anthony’s death is another signifier of the devastating hostile environment policy,” Mr Vernon added.

“Obviously his death was linked to cancer - but I believe that the hostile environment policy has reduced life expectancy and increased morbidity for those caught up in the scandal.

“It’s a public health issue now and I think an independent investigation will demonstrate the relationship between the policy and the people who have died prematurely.”

Mr Williams accepted a payout from the government’s Windrush Compensation Scheme (WCS) for victims of the scandal in 2021 after a three-year battle, beset with delays and an appeal.

“By the time that resolution came, the damage was done - scarred by years of futile struggle against the establishment, he moved back to Jamaica. He had last lived there at the age of 7; at 58, he was hopeful of a fresh start,” Ramya Jaidev, founding member of Windrush Lives, said.

The WCS has repeatedly been branded a failure as campaigners urged ministers to overhaul the payout process five years after it was launched.

Critics of the beleaguered scheme have called for the Home Office to be stripped of responsibility for determining and handling payments to victims and said it should be turned over to an independent body instead.

This follows repeated warnings from campaigners that the government is waiting for Windrush scandal victims to die before paying compensation.

Age UK also said long waits for people applying to the compensation scheme are “unacceptable, especially given that for many of the older applicants, time is not on their side”.

The government was approached for comment.

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