Margaret OBriens treatment by Home Office indicates scandal goes beyond Windrush generation

Margaret O’Brien, 69, moved from Canada to Wolverhampton in 1971, got married, had three children and worked for the local council for more than 25 times as a dinner madam, dinners on rotates driver, lollipop noblewoman and cleaner.

A spinal harm a few years ago entailed she had to give up her undertaking, resulting her to apply for benefits for the first time. In 2015, she was told her disability payments 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 own country of tribe if you do not depart voluntarily. No further notice will be given “.

If she decided to stay, the character forewarned,” 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 speciman is significant because it shown in the Home Office’s care of longstanding Commonwealth-born UK residents is not restricted to the Windrush generation, but is likely to extend to people from other Commonwealth countries.

A deportation character 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 epoches after her son’s uniting.” I tried to call the telephone number furnished, 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 attempt legal advice, but she was told it would expenditure PS900 for initial task.” 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” notified of 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 amassed 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 note stands out as stunning 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 fibs of detention and thrust exile in Jamaica.” I was humiliated, but there are so many parties in situations much worse than mine ,” she said.

She found the requirement to report every three months at the Home Office very difficult because of her disability. O’Brien strolls with a chassis and has to be accompanied by someone when she goes out, because she has a health condition that establishes her prone to collapsing unexpectedly.

The 25 -mile journey via bus, teach and tram to the Home Office reporting core in Solihull takes about two hours each route. On one occasion, she arrived only to be told the office was closed for a qualify date. On another, she queued for more than two hours before being asked to come back another day.

O’Brien on her bridal era. She only had her right to remain substantiated after a example work determined a passport stomp. Photograph: Andrew Fox for the Guardian

The waiting room was like a cow grocery, she said, crammed with about 200 beings, among other issues newborns- and sometimes adults- crying. Beings labelled overstayers, illegal immigrants or refused asylum seekers had to hand over all sharp-witted objectives, pens, pencils and keys, as well as mobile phones, at the door. Chairs were bolt to the floor.

” It was very cheapening. I’m a disabled female. Sometimes, I was in a lot of ache ,” O’Brien said. Travelling to the centre cost about PS40 each time for herself and her grandson or one of their own children.” I remembered fine, I will simply illustrate 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, formerly watched groupings of beings being bundled into a van, apparently to be detained. After that, both of them dreaded she are likely to 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 very difficult to make her practice to the office.

” They “ve been told”‘ you shouldn’t be here ‘,” O’Brien said. Inside the building, Main office staff were less friendly.” To them, it is just a job. Maybe they have to meet numbers, convene a certain number of parties a epoch. 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” program, and staff members immediately give the matter drop.

O’Brien at her home in Wolverhampton. She said:’ My care by the Main 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 have a job. I was always in design ,” O’Brien said.

By the time she retired, she was juggling three enterprises. When she conceived she might be behaved, she remembered wondering whether she would get a pay of the money she had paid in taxes.

O’Brien’s life savings were eaten up during 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 its significance, and was intensely grateful for his help.

After the Home office received this evidence, her right is currently in the UK was confirmed and her benefits were paid.

” My treatment by the Main office was terrible. I felt like clay ,” she said.

Ashwell said:” The occurrence of Ms O’Brien is a stark example of the implications of this hostile environment experienced by many of our buyers. The lawsuit demonstrates the way in which migration policy is contributing to 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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