Since Caribbean people started moving to the UK in the late 1940s, they have made a huge contribution to the UK’s economic and cultural life. Their presence has particularly enriched Bristol.
So I find it particularly disgraceful that some African-Caribbean elders in my constituency are being treated like second-class citizens, accused of being in the UK illegally after living here for many decades. As a result, some are being threatened with deportation. Others may unfairly lose their jobs, or be denied access to medical treatment, housing and benefits.
Many of these people – the so-called ‘Windrush Generation’ – would have travelled on their parents’ passports and may have lost birth certificates and other documents confirming when they arrived in the UK.
People that arrived in the UK before 1973 have an automatic right to remain, so in these cases people are fully entitled to remain in the UK. They have been living here and working for many years, as valuable members of the community. In many cases, the state willingly accepted their contributions over a lifetime of paying taxes and national insurance, but they suddenly hit problems when they reach retirement age and claim a state pension.
The problem is a result of the Government’s hostile environment policy, which requires employers, landlords and others to carry out documentary checks to confirm whether an individual has the right to be in the UK.
Together with my caseworkers, I have been working to try to resolve some of these problems. And the requirements are sometimes very onerous. The Home Office asks them to provide documentary evidence: at least one piece of documentary evidence for every year spent in the UK, sometimes as much as four pieces. This can be almost impossible. Schools and doctors’ surgeries will have closed over the years and documents will have been destroyed. Legal advice is expensive so they may not be able to access the help they need.
I asked Home Secretary Amber Rudd: Why should the onus be on these honoured citizens to prove their right to reside in the UK? I believe the burden of proof should instead rest with the Home Office. See her answer below.