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 parliament for more than 25 times as a dinner female, snacks on pedals driver, lollipop madam and cleaner.

A spinal hurt a few years ago intended she had to give up her profession, guiding her to apply for helps for the first time. In 2015, she was told her disability pays had been suspended because she was an illegal immigrant.

O’Brien received 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 country of nationality if you do not depart willingly. No further notice will be given “.

If she decided to stay, the letter reminded,” 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 example is significant because it shows the Home Office’s management of longstanding Commonwealth-born UK occupants is not restricted to the Windrush generation, but is likely to extend to people from other Commonwealth countries.

A deportation word received by 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 marriage.” I tried to call the telephone number , but it was absolutely impossible to get through. My son was on honeymoon in New York. I didn’t know what to do ,” she said. O’Brien attempt legal advice, but she was told it would expenditure PS900 for initial undertaking.” I’m a disabled pensioner. I didn’t have that kind of money ,” she said.

Not long afterwards, she was issued with a word foreman” 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 gleaned a large number of documents as evidence that she had lived in the UK before the 1973 Immigration Act entered 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 records, 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 account stands out as sickening even among the deluge of disclosures about Home office behaviour, but she said two years of getting by without disability benefit is nothing compared with narratives of detention and coerced 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 Main 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 builds her prone to collapsing accidentally.

The 25 -mile journey via bus, learn and tram to the Home Office reporting centre in Solihull takes about two hours each space. On one moment, she arrived merely to be told the office was closed for a course epoch. On another, she queued for more than two hours before being asked to come back another day.

O’Brien on her bridal daytime. She only had her right to remain proved after a case worker met a passport stamp. Photograph: Andrew Fox for the Guardian

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

” It was very cheapening. I’m a disabled girl. 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 reputed penalty, I will exactly interpret my statu. 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 pictured groupings of beings being bundled into a van, apparently to be detained. After that, both of them dreaded she might be next. The security guards on the door were always kind to her. She thought they felt sorry for her because she was finding it physically difficult to see her room to the office.

” They “ve been told”‘ you shouldn’t be here ‘,” O’Brien said. Inside the building, Home Office faculty were less friendly.” To them, “its just” a place. Maybe they have to meet numerals, meet a certain number of parties a era. 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 questioned 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 privilege to reside. This was several years before the introduction of the “hostile environment” programme, and staff immediately make the matter drop.

O’Brien at her home in Wolverhampton. She said:’ My care 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 piece ,” O’Brien said.

By the time she retired, she was juggling three activities. When she envisioned she are likely to be deported, she recollected wished to know whether she would get a pay of the money “shes had” paid under taxes.

O’Brien’s life savings were dined up in the period that she was without money, and she had to rely on her children.

Her case worker at the Refugee and Migrant Centre, Daniel Ashwell, facilitated 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 the critical importance, and was greatly grateful for his help.

After the Main office received this evidence, her claim to be in the UK was confirmed and her assistances were paid.

” My therapy by the Home office was terrible. I felt like grunge ,” she said.

Ashwell said:” The instance of Ms O’Brien is a stark example of the consequences of the hostile environment experienced by many of our purchasers. The action demonstrates the way in which migration policy has encouraged Main office officials to treat those going through the immigration system with distrust and a lack of human dignity .”

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


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