Margaret OBriens treatment by Home office hints scandal goes beyond Windrush generation

Margaret O’Brien, 69, moved from Canada to Wolverhampton in 1971, to marry, had three children and worked for the neighbourhood assembly for more than 25 years as a dinner dame, snacks on rotates driver, lollipop lady and cleaner.

A spinal hurt a couple of years ago entailed she had to give up her errand, guiding her to apply for helps for the first time. In 2015, she was told her disability remittances had been suspended because she was an illegal immigrant.

O’Brien got a letter stating:” Home Office records indicate that you do not have permission to be in the UK. You should make arrangements to leave without delay .”

The letter informed her” of our intention to remove you from the UK to your own country of nationality if you do not depart willingly. No further notice will be given “.

If she decided to stay, the letter informed,” life in the UK will become increasingly difficult “; O’Brien was liable to be arrested, prosecuted and face a possible six-month prison sentence.

Her event is significant because it shown in the Home Office’s medicine of longstanding Commonwealth-born UK tenants is not restricted to the Windrush generation, but is likely to extend to beings from other Commonwealth countries.

A eviction word received a total of O’Brien, who came to the UK from Canada in 1971, before the Immigration Act. Photograph: Andrew Fox for the Guardian

The letter arrived a few days after her son’s wedding.” I tried to call the telephone number catered, but it was absolutely impossible to been through. My son was on honeymoon in New York. I didn’t know what to do ,” she said. O’Brien try legal advice, but she was told it would cost PS900 for initial cultivate.” I’m a disabled pensioner. I didn’t have that kind of money ,” she said.

Not long afterwards, she was issued with a word honcho” notification to a person who is liable to be detained “. Her photo was above the words:” You are a person without leave who has been served with a notice of liability to removal .”

She gathered a large number of documents as evidence that she had lived in the UK before the 1973 Immigration Act came into force, and was in the country legally. After more than a year of trying to convince officials, she was allowed to meet a Home Office decision-maker in person. She was ready to show him her certificates, but he simply asked if there was anyone in Canada who could house her.

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” I don’t know whether they get brownie points for the number of people they can send back to their own country ,” O’Brien said. She felt the man was looking at her and thinking:” Is this someone I can take in ?”

O’Brien’s history stands out as sickening even among the deluge of shows about Home office behaviour, but she said two years of getting by without disability benefit is nothing compared with tales of detention and forced exile in Jamaica.” I was humbled, but there are so many beings in situations much worse than mine ,” she said.

She found the requirement to report every three months at the Home office very complicated because of her disability. O’Brien saunters with a chassis and has to be accompanied by someone when she goes out, because she has a health condition that moves her prone to collapsing accidentally.

The 25 -mile journey via bus, learn and tram to the Main office reporting centre in Solihull takes about two hours each mode. On one reason, she arrived only to be told the office was closed for a practise period. On another, she queued for more than two hours before being asked to come back another day.

O’Brien on her marry date. She only had her right to remain established after a client laborer located a passport embos. Photograph: Andrew Fox for the Guardian

The waiting room was like a cattle market, she said, crammed with about 200 beings, among them newborns- and sometimes adults- crying. Beings branded overstayers, illegal immigrants or refused asylum seekers had to hand over all sharp objects, writes, pencils and keys, as well as mobile phones, at the door. Chairs were screwed to the floor.

” It was very cheapening. I’m a disabled wife. Sometimes, I was in a lot of pain ,” O’Brien said. Travelling to the centre cost about PS40 each time for herself and her grandson or one of their own children.” I envisaged penalty, I will merely justify my place. You hope miracles will happen and someone will just listen to you ,” she said.

Her daughter, who was not allowed in and had to wait outside, once ascertained groupings of beings being bundled into a van, presumably to be detained. After that, both of them panicked she are likely to be next. The security guards on the door were always kind to her. She believed they felt sorry for her because she was finding it physically difficult to obligate her acces to the office.

” They “ve been told”‘ you shouldn’t be here ‘,” O’Brien said. Inside the building, Main office personnel were less friendly.” To them, “its just” a occupation. Maybe they have to meet quantities, converge a certain number of beings a period. You’re just treated as a number ,” she said.

O’Brien had first been informed that she had a problem with her paperwork when the council pointed out in about 2008 that her Canadian passport had expired, and requested her for an alternative document.

She had never applied for a British passport and was not planning a holiday, so decided to explain to council staff that she had been in the UK for decades and did not need to prove a right to reside. This was several years before the introduction of the “hostile environment” policy, and staff members immediately let the matter drop.

O’Brien at her home in Wolverhampton. She said:’ My management by the Home office was terrible .’ Photograph: Andrew Fox for the Guardian

She was puzzled by the Home Office’s decision to target her.” I did feel British. When I came to England, Canada was part of the Commonwealth. It was so simple. I went to the jobcentre, was issued with a national insurance and got a job. I was always in operate ,” O’Brien said.

By the time she retired, she was juggling three positions. When she remembered she might be extradited, she recollected wished to know whether she would get a refund of the money “shes had” paid in taxes.

O’Brien’s life savings were devoured up in the period that she was without money, and she had to are dependent upon her children.

Her case worker at the Refugee and Migrant Centre, Daniel Ashwell, helped her find an indefinite leave to remain stamp in her expired Canadian passport that instantaneously proved she was in the UK legally. “Shes never” noticed it, or realised its significance, and was greatly grateful for his help.

After the Home Office received this evidence, her privilege are in conformity with the UK was confirmed and her advantages were paid.

” My medicine by the Home Office was terrible. I felt like soil ,” she said.

Ashwell said:” The case of Ms O’Brien is a stark example of the consequences of the hostile environment experienced by many of our patrons. The client supports the way in which immigration policy has encouraged Home office officials to treat those going through the immigration system with mistrust and a lack of human dignity .”

In an emailed statement, the Home office said:” The brand-new dedicated team helping the Windrush generation will be on hand to assist undocumented long-resident Commonwealth citizens .”


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