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Windrush

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:23 pm on 2nd May 2018.

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Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden 6:23 pm, 2nd May 2018

I want to thank the nurses, the teachers, the bus drivers, the plumbers and the bricklayers who came to my city to make it the great city—the greatest city in the world—that it is now. I particularly thank those who came to my part of the greatest city, south London. The Windrush generation have contributed so much, not only through work but in the community, in our churches, and in our political parties. The strongest supporters of the Mitcham and Morden Labour parties, those who will be out tomorrow knocking on doors and putting leaflets through the letter boxes, will be from the Caribbean. If I had time, I would tell the House their names and their stories, but I do not. Instead, I will tell the stories of three people who have no right to be here, although each of them has lived here for more than 50 years.

Ken is 64. He came to the UK in 1962, aged eight, to join his now late parents Herman and Ivy Ellis, both of whom were UK citizens. He still has his dad’s UK passport and his birth certificate. He went to school in Wandsworth. He was taken into care by Wandsworth Council for some time. He first came to see me in 2013, and I tried to help him to find evidence to support his application to stay. I am sorry to say that I did not know that he already had indefinite leave to remain. I contacted the Revenue; it would not give his details unless the Home Office asked for them. I asked Wandsworth for his school records, but was told, “We don’t keep records that far back.” I even requested his landing card, not knowing, of course, that that had since been destroyed. That means that since 2013, Ken, who has always worked, has been unable to do so. His relationship has broken down, he has lost his home, and he is staying at the mercy of friends.

I would like to tell the House about Neville. Neville came to Britain in 1973, aged 17, to join his parents, Thomas and Deslin, both of whom were UK citizens—and I am now holding up their British passports. A subject order request to release his file from the Home Office showed that the Home Office was entirely aware that he had come to Britain in 1973 and later informed anyone who wanted to read it that the Home Office had destroyed his file and that of his mother. So there was no way for him to prove that he indeed was a British citizen.

I first got to know Trevor on 13 April. He came to see me. He had stopped working for Blue Arrow Agency because he wanted to care for his mother, Eastlyn. When he tried to return to work, they said, “Trevor, show us your documents, show us you can work.” He replied, “Can work? I have worked since the late 1970s. How can I no longer be entitled to work?” I spoke to Trevor about paying thousands of pounds to apply for indefinite leave to remain for naturalisation, because I did not understand that he already had indefinite leave to remain.

I am ashamed that I did not understand their position. I tried to help them, and I have failed. I only ask that the Home Office no longer fails and that these men be allowed to work, as their parents taught them, and to lead the lives that they want to lead as serious citizens of this country.