Windrush scandal victim finally back in UK after 40 year exile in Caribbean

Exclusive: Richard Black, 70, was locked out of Britain in 1983 over a passport error, despite living in England since he was a six-year-old boy

Nadine White
Race Correspondent
Monday 15 April 2024 20:26 BST
Windrush scandal: What you need to know

A Windrush scandal victim who was stranded in the Caribbean for more than 40 years after being refused re-entry into the UK has finally arrived back in Britain.

Richard Black, 70, who lived in England from the age of six, wrongly had his UK citizenship withdrawn by the Home Office in 1983 over a passport error in a decision which locked him out of the country for decades. He has been stateless ever since.

Mr Black, who has been living in Trinidad and Tobago, spent years challenging his case before the government approved a returning resident’s visa for him. He has now returned to the UK, with The Independent witnessing the moment he arrived in London Gatwick Airport alongside his wife, Cleo, on Monday morning.

“I’m happy to be here,” the elder said.

Born in St Lucia, Mr Black moved to the UK as a young boy and grew up in Notting Hill, west London.

Richard Black, 70, flew back to the UK on Monday morning (The Independent/Nadine White)

However, authorities did not allow him back into the country when his passport expired while on a trip to visit his in-laws in Trinidad and Tobago. He was aged 29 at the time.

Mr Black’s former wife, two of his daughters and his whole life were in Britain but, as a result of the enforced distance, his marriage broke down and he lost contact with his loved ones. He was even unable to attend his mother’s funeral in 2003.

Mr Black’s story was revealed after the Windrush scandal came to public attention in 2018. He was initially expected to travel to Britain in April 2021, as first reported by The Independent at the time.

Richard Black in Trinidad: ‘I became a beggar, relying on the kindness of strangers for food’ (Supplied)

But his move was beset by three years of “distressing” delays, including the question of whether his wife could join. Mr Black said the Home Office was initially unwilling to facilitate Mrs Black’s travel to Britain with her husband.

The St Lucian-Briton has returned to the UK on a returning resident’s visa, having negotiated terms and conditions around accommodation, financial arrangements and provisions for his wife whom he married in 2014.

In an official offer letter, seen by The Independent, the government explains that this gives the pensioner indefinite leave to remain in the UK. But he will still have to apply for British citizenship in the future, despite being a British citizen since birth.

The Windrush Compensation Scheme was launched in April 2019 (PA Archive)

Mr Black, whose birth name is Leo Marius, is estranged from his UK-born children whom he has not seen since 1983; they were six and two years old at the time and, he says, think he “abandoned them”.

“I am angry at the policies enacted by the government and I’m also angry that this whole scandal affected people of colour from across the various Commonwealth countries; this seems to have been driven purely on the basis of people’s race,” he told The Independent in a previous interview.

“I became a beggar, relying on the kindness of strangers for food. I became emaciated and disheveled,” he added, explaining how he had fallen on hard times after being stranded in the Caribbean. “I had basically given up hopes of ever returning to the UK.”

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

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