A Windrush victim has spoken out about the ‘humiliation’ and ‘sorrow’ he has suffered after being deemed an illegal immigrant in his home country.
Speaking on Windrush Day on Monday, campaigner Michael Braithwaite, 68, said the government has not fulfilled the promises made to those who were unjustly challenged over their immigration status, wrongfully detained and deported to the Caribbean. His comments came on the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks, in Essex, bearing around 500 people from Jamaica.
Over the last two years, less than five per cent of Windrush claimants have received owed compensation. Out of 1,275 claims made, only 60 people have received a payout, said the independent adviser to the Windrush Compensation Scheme, Martin Forde QC.
He told Good Morning Britain: ‘In terms of the numbers who’ve received compensation I think the last figures I saw were about 60. After two years, 60 people have received compensation up to, and including, the end of March of this year.’
Mr Braithwaite, a grandfather-of-six based in north London, accused the government of continuing to ‘brush’ its failings ‘under the carpet’ and that the contributions of the Windrush generation are still not recognised.
The father-of-three, who came to the UK as a child from Barbados in 1961, lost his job as a special needs teaching assistant two years ago after being told his documents were not up-to-date.
Speaking on the ITV programme, he said: ‘When I go back to what happened to me and I think about it in a sense of the injustice and the humiliation, the “I don’t care” attitude about people who came here to help build this country – it was rough.’
He said that two years on ‘we haven’t really moved on in any way,’ adding that many ‘who’ve done their bit’ and ‘built the country’ won’t ever get justice for the suffering they faced under the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ policy.
Mr Braithwaite added: ’11 of us have died and gone, what about those people? What about those people who are not here? Families are still struggling. It’s something that’s going to be brushed under the carpet again, it’s been put on hold for so long, nothing really has manifested from this situation’.
Mr Braithwaite was one of several campaigners who took a 130,000-strong petition to Downing Street last week, calling for the government to address its failings over the scandal.
‘It took five people of my age group to sit outside No 10 and comfort ourselves, we felt good to be together, we share the same sorrow, the same burden, the same frustrations, the same – how can I put it – not being anybody,’ he said.
‘We’ve come this far and we’re still not recognised for what we’ve done and we’re still in debt, and we still have bills to pay. It’s not recognised, they’re not recognising it as something that is powerful that has made this country what it is.’
Mr Braithwaite added that he was invited to the 70th anniversary at Downing Street and left feeling ‘appalled,’ claiming Theresa May – who is said to have introduced the hostile environment policy – left early before meeting some victims.
He said: ‘I was appalled. I felt ashamed because the people who were supposed to be in number 10 were queuing up outside – people of 80 and 70 – while all the dignitaries were inside having a part of the celebration’.
‘It was a token to blind us for a while,’ he added. ‘When I was actually in the garden of number 10 it wasn’t really like a celebration. There were a lot of people there with miserable faces who were looking at this as “why are we doing this, why are we doing this for these people, whats the point?”
‘Ticking their box that they’ve honoured the people that were there but not the people who did all the hard work and the people who are still suffering like me,’ he added.
The official human rights watchdog is set to launch legal action to ‘right the wrongs’ suffered by the Windrush generation.
The group’s findings will influence the Home Office’s response to a report published in March, which found the department’s ‘system operational failings’
It will also offer practical solutions on how to tackle the challenges disproportionately affecting people from BAME backgrounds and advise on the design and delivery of the Windrush Schemes Community Fund.
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