Margaret OBriens treatment by Main office intimates scandal goes beyond Windrush generation

Margaret O’Brien, 69, moved from Canada to Wolverhampton in 1971, is married, had three children and worked for the local parliament for more than 25 times as a dinner lady, snacks on pedals driver, lollipop lady and cleaner.

A spinal harm a few years ago intended she had to give up her activity, contributing her to apply for interests for the first time. In 2015, she was told her disability remittances had been suspended because she was an illegal immigrant.

O’Brien received a letter stating:” Home Office records should be noted 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 farther observe will be given “.

If she decided to stay, the letter alerted,” 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 case is significant because it shown in the Home Office’s medication of longstanding Commonwealth-born UK tenants is not restricted to the Windrush generation, but is likely to extend to parties 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 dates after her son’s uniting.” I tried to call the telephone number provisioned, 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 sought legal advice, but she was told it would expense PS900 for initial toil.” I’m a disabled pensioner. I didn’t have that kind of money ,” she said.

Not long afterwards, she was issued with a word manager” notified by 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 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 members 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 chronicle stands out as outraging even among the deluge of shows about Main 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 parties in situations much worse than mine ,” she said.

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

The 25 -mile journey via bus, train and tram to the Main office reporting centre in Solihull takes about two hours each lane. On one reason, she arrived merely to be told the office was closed for a train 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 established after a speciman craftsman procured a passport stomp. Photograph: Andrew Fox for the Guardian

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

” It was very degrading. 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 thoughts penalty, I will simply interpret my situation. 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 verified a group of people being wrap into a van, presumably to be detained. After that, both of them panicked she might be next. The security guards on the door were always kind to her. She believed that they felt sorry for her because she was finding it physically difficult to construct her practice to the office.

” They told me’ you shouldn’t be here ‘,” O’Brien said. Inside the building, Home office staff were less friendly.” To them, “its just” a enterprise. Maybe they have to meet digits, encounter a certain number of parties 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 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 right to reside. This was several years before the introduction of the “hostile environment” programme, and staff members immediately let the issues drop.

O’Brien at her home in Wolverhampton. She said:’ My medication 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 have a job. I was always in duty ,” O’Brien said.

By the time she retired, she was juggling three responsibilities. When she believed she are likely to be behaved, she recollected wished to know whether she would get a pay of the money she had paid off 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 instant proved she was in the UK legally. She had never noticed it, or realised the critical importance, and was greatly grateful for his help.

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

” My medication by the Home office was terrible. I felt like soil ,” she said.

Ashwell said:” The action of Ms O’Brien is a stark example of the consequences of the hostile environment experienced by many of our buyers. The occasion illustrates the method in which migration policy has encouraged Home Office officials to treat those going through the immigration system with distrust and a lack of human dignity .”

In an emailed statement, the Main 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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