A Scottish victim of the Windrush scandal has called for greater compassion from Home Secretary Suella Braverman after she reneged on promises made to victims of the widespread injustice.
Paul Cudjoe, 67, has spoken out after Braverman abandoned pledges to establish a migrants’ commissioner, increase powers of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration and hold reconciliation events.
Originally from Grenada, the retired demolition worker, who has lived in Dundee for four decades after arriving in Britain as a schoolboy in the 1960s, was suddenly asked by the UK Government to prove he had the right to stay here under a policy then PM Theresa May in 2012 said was designed to create a “hostile environment” for migrants.
He was one of the hundreds of victims of the scandal exposed in 2018 involving men and women from the Caribbean who arrived in the UK in the 1950s and 60s being threatened with deportation.
Many were members of the Windrush generation, named after the ship that brought one of the first groups of West Indian migrants to the UK in 1948.
The UK Government would be forced to apologise and promise a range of measures when the scandal was exposed. However, Braverman last month abandoned three main pledges – to establish a migrants’ commissioner, increase powers of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration and hold reconciliation events.
Cudjoe said: “There seems to be a huge lack of compassion and understanding of what people who came here, often as youngsters, have had to suffer and endure to remain in the UK with their partners and children.
“I am one of a generation whose parents were desperately needed labour in mills and successfully integrated and married here.
“We are talking about people who have been here for more than 50 years in some cases and are now pensioners.”
Cudjoe called on Braverman to keep the promises made in the wake of the scandal.
He said: “After all the government’s promises to apologise for threatening to force Windrush victims to leave the UK, the Home Secretary is going back on its word. It is surely reasonable to expect compassion and decency from our political leaders. Most of the Windrush generation have had a long and protracted struggle to remain in the UK. It is the only home most of us know.
“Others were forced to return to childhood Caribbean homes and died there without any justice or apology.”
He says that he had tried on several occasions to get documentation to stay indefinitely in the UK but had been fobbed off.
He added: “I was sent and referred to several different government departments and suspected that no one wanted to take the responsibility for allowing Windrush children to remain in the UK.
“All we ask for is justice and decency. Above all, respect.”
Cudjoe was stopped at the border control after coming back from a holiday with his wife, Frances. Immigration officials took him aside while they considered whether to let him back into the country.
His wife Frances said she feared he would be sent back to the West Indies island of Granada, which he left when he was 12.
“I was scared that I would have to call our children and say their dad wouldn’t be coming home again,” she said.
Eventually border control let him return home to Dundee and he spent seven years fighting to stay in the UK.
Braverman is facing a growing backlash over what is described as cruel decision to drop the three key reforms.
Baroness Floella Benjamin, who chairs the government’s Windrush commemoration committee, said the move will cause “even more pain and hurt”.
Actor David Harewood described the home secretary’s backtracking as “awful” and said: “We’re dangerously flirting with ideologues”.
He was eventually awarded £20,000 in compensation, much of which he says had to be spent on legal fees pursuing the right to remain in the UK. The Windrush generation arrived in the UK on the HMT Empire Windrush in 1948 and were granted indefinite leave to remain by the Immigration Act 1971.
The Home Office said: “We are making progress towards the vast majority of recommendations from Wendy Williams’ report, and believe there are more meaningful ways of achieving the intent of a very small number of others.
“Through this work, we will make sure that similar injustices can never be repeated and are creating a Home Office worthy of every community it serves.”
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