Letter of the Day | Victimised and marginalised in Britain
THE EDITOR, Madam
As a child of the Windrush myself, l fully agree that the British Government is not appropriately handling the Windrush with care and thought. I am sharing my own experience with the Windrush Government project. I am from St Lucia originally and came to England on my parents passport at the age of 18 months in 1966.
I lived only in the United Kingdom and worked in there, I was 35 years old when I attended university. After graduating and at the age of 39, l could not get a job. Not due to my lack of experience or failing the interview, but to my non-possession of an English passport.
I lived on housing benefits since leaving university and supported myself giving fitness and self-defence lessons that were cash in-hand at £10 an hour, three to four hours a week. My attempts to get work was futile as a British passport was asked for, or documents stating residency.
I remembered telling an interviewer where I applied for a position as a computer programmer to listen to my accent. Does it sound foreign or is it an accent from a Londoner? Frustration began to get the better of me as l got up and left the interview without saying goodbye, slamming the door behind me. This is not my temperament l thought. I am polite and courteous. The interview ending gave me an indication that pressure and stress was mounting.
I sought numerous times trying for residency and a passport at the British Home Office in Croydon. Only to be turned away, as I could not prove my status in the UK. Each time l was told records were required dating back to 1966 of my arrival to the UK. An impossible task.
I sought school records but all avenues l tried held no details, as they were removed or deleted after a certain duration. When I was six years old, in 1970, my mother went back to the Caribbean then returned in 1974. She went back to the Caribbean in 1980.
The Home Office asked records prior to 1973. Again this was an impossible task. I remembered the patrolling vans in London with sign board indicating to foreigners (targeting those from the Caribbean that they thought were illegal) to turn themselves in and go back home.
I remembered walking past a van turning my head away when l caught the eye of an immigration officer. I asked myself, why should l have turn my head, of being afraid in either questions or being arrested? Why should l live this way in fear? Why should l live this way?
One day walking on Stratford in East London l recalled being approached by an immigration officer.
“What is your name?” she asked.
“Sylvanus Joseph,” I replied
“That’s funny, we don’t have that name on the Home Office list,” she said.
At this time l went in complete rage and angrily shouted at her saying, there are millions of names on the Home Office list and she miraculously could tell by memory who were on and not on the list.
My reaction caused people to notice. I told the officer that she was questioning me regarding my status when she herself was from eastern Europe. To boos and cheers from the surrounding onlookers, mainly blacks, it was left at that.
Having desperately wanting to travel and see my mother, I applied for a St Lucian passport. When l received my passport, I was told going out of UK is okay but arriving in the UK meant problems and the last time I went abroad in 2005, I was kept at British Customs where I was questioned and humiliated.
I have not travelled out of the UK since 2005 in fear that l would not be allowed to return.
Sadly, when my mother passed away, l could not visit her as friends and family including my solicitor warned l may not be allowed back in the UK if I were to visit my mother. The stress, trauma, embarrassment and near-sickening behaviour of neglect l felt as an individual resulted at times in thoughts of taking my own life.
In 2018 I heard of the government Windrush Scheme. I thought I would get justice at last. I was issued with a naturalisation card. I travelled abroad using my St Lucian passport and this card for the first time since 2005 in 2019.
Three months later, a British passport was issued to me. After opening the package, I remembered throwing it across the room in disgust thinking I deserved to have this many years earlier and would have been able to see my dying mother. I left the UK and immigrated to Japan in July 2019, at the age of 55, where I got married. After two years living in Japan, the Japanese Government issued me a permanent visa status.
The Japanese Government made me feel human, something the UK Government seem to ridicule in near 51 years as a resident in the UK. The Home Office has apologised and acknowledged my claim for compensation through the Windrush Scheme. My claim made in October 2019 which was confirmed via email by the Home Office was not dealt with until January 2021.
I was sent a letter confirming an initial payment of £10,000 and that I may not get any further payment, depending on my case. I had an option to accept or refuse the payment now and wait until my case was fully resolved; I chose to refuse.
It is almost August 2021 and I am still waiting on news from the Home Office.