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 neighbourhood council for more than 25 times as a dinner dame, banquets on rotates driver, lollipop female and cleaner.

A spinal injury some years ago intended she had to give up her chore, leading her to apply for advantages 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 willingly. No farther dismissal will be given “.

If she decided to stay, the note advised,” 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 client is significant because it shows the Home Office’s therapy of longstanding Commonwealth-born UK tenants is not restricted to the Windrush generation, but is likely to extend to people from other Commonwealth countries.

A deportation letter 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 cases days after her son’s uniting.” I tried to call the telephone number provided, 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 expenditure PS900 for initial design.” I’m a disabled pensioner. I didn’t have that kind of money ,” she said.

Not long afterwards, she was issued with a letter leader” 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 met 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 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 parties 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 appalling even among the deluge of discoveries 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 parties 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 feet with a frame and has to be accompanied by someone when she goes out, because she has a health condition that draws her prone to collapsing unexpectedly.

The 25 -mile journey via bus, train and tram to the Main office reporting core in Solihull takes about two hours each room. On one occasion, she arrived exclusively to be told the office was closed for a course era. On another, she queued for more than two hours before being asked to come back another day.

O’Brien on her marry era. She only had her right to remain demonstrated after a client employee determined a passport stomp. Photograph: Andrew Fox for the Guardian

The waiting room was like a cattle market, she said, crammed with about 200 beings, among other issues children- and sometimes adults- crying. Parties labelled overstayers, illegal immigrants or refused asylum seekers had to hand over all sharp objects, pens, 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 her children.” I envisioned penalty, I will just excuse 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 accompanied a group of people being wrap into a van, apparently to be detained. After that, both of them horror 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 very difficult to induce her course to the office.

” They told me’ you shouldn’t be here ‘,” O’Brien said. Inside the building, Main office faculty were less friendly.” To them, it is just a undertaking. Maybe they have to meet numbers, congregate a certain number of people 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 expected 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” plan, and staff members immediately let the matter drop.

O’Brien at her home in Wolverhampton. She said:’ My management 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 comes within the framework 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 effort ,” O’Brien said.

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

O’Brien’s life savings were snacked 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, helped her find an indefinite leave to remain stamp in her expired Canadian passport that instantaneously testified she was in the UK legally. “Shes never” saw it, or realised its significance, and was intensely grateful for his help.

After the Home Office received this evidence, her right to be in the UK was confirmed and her benefits were paid.

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

Ashwell said:” The client of Ms O’Brien is a stark example of the consequences of the hostile environment experienced by many of our buyers. The occasion expresses 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 brand-new dedicated team helping the Windrush generation will be on hand to assist undocumented long-resident Commonwealth citizens .”


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