Margaret OBriens treatment by Home Office advocates 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 committee for more than 25 times as a dinner maid, meals on wheels driver, lollipop maiden and cleaner.

A spinal injury a few years ago represented she had to give up her activity, producing her to apply for benefits 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 voluntarily. No further detect “il give” “.

If she decided to stay, the word told,” 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 shows the Home Office’s therapy of longstanding Commonwealth-born UK inhabitants is not restricted to the Windrush generation, but is likely to extend to people from other Commonwealth countries.

Letter
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 afforded, 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 employment.” I’m a disabled pensioner. I didn’t have that kind of money ,” she said.

Not long afterwards, she was issued with a note headed” 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 collected a large number of documents as evidence that she had lived in the UK before the 1973 Immigration Act enter into force, and was in the country legally. After more than a year of trying to convince officials, she was allowed to meet a Main 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 accounting stands out as appalling 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 narrations of detention and coerced exile in Jamaica.” I was humiliated, but there are so many people in situations much worse than mine ,” she said.

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

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

Margaret
O’Brien on her bridal era. She only had her right to remain corroborated after a suit worker knew a passport postage. Photograph: Andrew Fox for the Guardian

The waiting room was like a cattle market, she said, crammed with about 200 people, among them children- and sometimes adults- crying. People branded overstayers, illegal immigrants or refused asylum seekers had to hand over all sharp-witted objectives, 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 dame. 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 her children.” I fantasized fine, I will only clarify 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 realized 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 thought they felt sorry for her because she was finding it physically difficult to realise her space 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, it is just a responsibility. Maybe they have to meet numbers, encounter a certain number of parties a date. You’re just treated as a number ,” she said.

O’Brien had firstly 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 let the matter drop.

Margaret
O’Brien at her home in Wolverhampton. She said:’ My medicine 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 employment ,” O’Brien said.

By the time she retired, she was juggling three responsibilities. When she contemplated she might be behaved, she recollected wished to know whether she would get a refund of the money “shes had” paid off taxes.

O’Brien’s life savings were devoured up over 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 testified she was in the UK legally. “Shes never” observed it, or realised its significance, and was greatly grateful for his help.

After the Home Office received this evidence, her claim is currently in the UK was confirmed and her helps were paid.

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

Ashwell said:” The suit of Ms O’Brien is a stark example of the consequences of the hostile environment experienced by many of our clients. The suit substantiates the practice in which migration policy wished to encourage 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 brand-new dedicated team helping the Windrush generation will be on hand to assist undocumented long-resident Commonwealth citizens .”

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