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‘Help me, this is my home’: Desperate pleas from detained Windrush citizens revealed after Home Office forced to release files

Case files demonstrate 'consistent and holistic' proof of their life in Britain along with letters pleading for help

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 06 June 2018 19:57 BST
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Windrush citizen Anthony Bryan 'didn't know any airports in Jamaica' when asked which he'd prefer to be deported to

Desperate pleas from Windrush citizens who were wrongly detained have been revealed after the Home Office was forced to release previously undisclosed files showing its correspondence with the individuals affected.

Paulette Wilson, who was detained twice last year despite having been in the UK since the age of 10, wrote a letter to the government simply stating: “Please help me, this is my home.”

Anthony Bryan, a Jamaican man who was detained despite having been in Britain for decades, pleaded: “I’ve got nothing in Jamaica.”

The files, released by the Home Office on request of the Human Rights Committee, also contain numerous documents submitted to the department demonstrating “consistent and holistic” proof of their British residency, including national insurance numbers, letters from the Jamaican High Commission and pay slips.

They were published ahead of a hearing in which the committee probed the home secretary, Sajid Javid, and director-general of the Home Office’s Border Immigration and Citizenship System, Glyn Williams, in which they conceded that mistakes were made by the department in both cases and promised that lessons would be learnt.

The case files of Mr Bryan, who arrived in the UK in 1965, reveal that he provided more than a dozen pieces of evidence, including a letter from HMRC in 2013 as well as birth certificates, payslips and photos demonstrating his life in the UK.

Yet in 2016, he was served with a deportation notice and taken into detention where he remained for 18 days, despite numerous statements from his partner, birth certificates of his UK-born children, more national insurance records and a letter from his MP being sent to the government during that period.

Among the documents in the files submitted by Mr Bryan was a letter from his son stating: “My father has lived in this country for over 45 [years]. During this time he has always been in employment and always taught me wrong from right.

“I have never been in trouble with the law and have a clean criminal record. This is all down to the way I was raised by my parents. Words can’t express what my father has done. The relationship he has with my children is fantastic.

“I hope this letter will give you an idea of what my father is about.”

During the hearing, Labour MP Karen Buck also revealed that when Mr Bryan was at the point of being deported and was asked which airport he wanted to fly to, he replied: “I don’t know any airports in Jamaica, I don’t know Jamaica.”

In the case of Ms Wilson, who came to the UK in 1968, her files show that in March 2017, a letter to the Home Office from the Jamaican High Commission confirmed that she entered the UK as a small child and that her family was based in Britain.

She also submitted 35 years of national insurance records, as well as medical records and evidence from a childhood friend.

Yet the 61-year-old was detained on two occasions last year on the basis that “there was no current evidence of her lawful entry”.

Asked to respond to her case, Mr Javid said he sympathised with Ms Wilson and conceded that the Home Office was wrong to put the “entire burden of proof on the individual”.

“Please help me, this is my home… That says it all, really. So, she was asking for help and she didn’t get it, and obviously it’s her home. It’s the only home she knew,” Mr Javid told the committee.

“Because I am new to the job I hope to bring a fresh set of eyes to these cases, because obviously something went wrong. What happened has happened, and we’re all sorry for it, but how can we prevent it from happening to others.

“The whole immigration enforcement system is not set up for a situation where people have deemed leave. When the compliant environment comes into contact with people who are deemed leave, the system isn’t able to respond to that, and even when that individual gets in touch with the system, the system puts the entire burden of proof on the individual.”

He said this was wrong when the Home Office has easy access to DWP records, school records and HMRC, adding: “There’s absolutely no reason why anyone who has deemed leave from the Windrush generation would have had to keep their documentation.”

When Mr Williams was asked to respond to Ms Wilson’s case, he said: “I do think that was a mistake by us and we should have engaged more proactively and sympathetically with her, because I can see from the record that she was probably bewildered by the situation she had found herself in.”

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