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Thousands confused as illegal residents in UK

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By Abraham Adekunle

Victims of the Windrush scandal still without compensation.

The Windrush scandal is one in which the British Home Office denied residency rights and citizenship to many people who had been living in the United Kingdom legally for most of their lives, if not all of their lives. The victims were members and descendants of the so-called Windrush generation, mostly Caribbean migrants who moved to Britain in the post-World War II era. They migrated to Britain in response to a call for labor shortages in the United Kingdom. Historically, the first set of these migrants arrived on the Empire Windrush 75 years ago.

Citizens of former British colonies in South Asia and Africa also became entangled in the scandal. One of the thousands of victims is Carl Nwazota. He was born and grew up in London to parents from Jamaica and Nigeria. He was a UK citizen with a British passport for 26 years. According to him, this was until it was confiscated by the Home Office after he tried to renew it in 2000. For the next 22 years, Nwazota lived in constant fear of being deported.

Passport returned but it was much too late to start over.

He was prevented from working by the Home Office. His business was closed and he could not gain employment or social housing due to his lack of documents. He was forced to live in temporary accommodation, with several instances of homelessness in-between. Sometimes, he would pass the night in a tent under a shop window or in an abandoned van in a supermarket car park. It was not until 2018 that the Home Office acknowledged that he was a British citizen over a phone call.

Nwazota struggled to regain his passport for the next four years as he remained homeless. Many of his documents were lost after he claimed that the council threw away his tent, and he could not receive a response from the Home Office since he had no permanent address. At this point, he had been told he was a British citizen but without a passport nor an apology from the Home Office. He has since regained his passport since 2022, and the first thing he did was to get a job as a refuse collector. “Even though I’m back in the real world now,” he said, “it’s too late for me. I’m 49 years old now.”

Victimization due to UK govt’s hostile environment, experts say.

Many other victims of this scandal were children who had been born in Britain and who had known no other home. Yet, the government of the United Kingdom had their citizenship revoked. Experts have commented that this was due to the UK government’s “hostile environment” policy, which is a government crackdown on immigration that misclassified the Windrush generation as illegal immigrants. This had led to multiple generations suffering devastating harm such as job losses, home evictions, lack of access to healthcare, detentions, and even as the Windrush Lessons Learned Review outlined.

In 2018, the Windrush Compensation Scheme was set up to provide compensation to thousands of victims of this scandal. Britain’s then prime minister, Theresa May, publicly apologized for her government’s treatment of some Caribbean immigrants and insisted that they were still welcome in the country. Yet, thousands are still struggling to access this compensation despite the Home Office reinstating their British and the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush immigrants is being celebrated.

Thousands of victims are without compensation still.

According to the latest Home Office statistics, 1,518 people have received compensation so far. Another 381 have had their claims refused or withdrawn due to ineligibility and 1,988 have submitted claims that meet the eligibility criteria but have been awarded zero compensation. As for Nwazota who applied for the compensation four times, his application has always been rejected. Documents provided by him to the media shows that the Home Office had acknowledged that he meets the criteria but the agency has been unable to determine whether he suffered detrimental impacts due to the lack of evidence.

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