A Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report published today reveals the appalling treatment of a member of the Windrush generation who was represented by GMIAU.
Rupert Everett came to the UK aged 19, in the early 1960s. He lived and worked as an HGV driver for many years, had children and grandchildren, and retired nearly 50 years later, looking forward to spending more time with his family. But his life was thrown into turmoil when he was told by the Home Office that he would be removed from the country. They ignored that he not only had the right to be in the UK, but all the documentation to prove it. His driving licence was revoked and he was warned in a letter, “your life in the UK will become increasingly difficult”.
There was no reason for Rupert to be targeted. He had made an application for a permanent status document in 2015 – to prove his status. He then withdrew the application so he could travel to Jamaica. On his return on the 23rd May 2015 he was granted permanent status again, which was stamped in his passport. But on the 10th June 2015, just over 2 weeks later, he was classified by the Home Office as being here “illegally”. This incorrect classification, which the Ombudsman can find no reasons for, was followed by a litany of errors by five different Home Office departments.
Sadly, Rupert passed away in 2019. He never saw the outcome of his complaint, and the final years of his life were blighted by the anxiety and trauma of being targeted by the Hostile Environment. But his family continued his fight for recognition of the injustice done to him. His daughter Fiona says:
He had complete proof of his legal residence in the UK and was devastated when he provided this proof only to be told that it would be ignored and that he would still be deported.
This changed the way he reacted to other people. He changed from being an outgoing and proud family man to becoming depressed, very anxious and isolating himself from his family. This affected all of us, especially my children who did not understand why their beloved grandfather was spending less time with them.
I am pleased that the ombudsman’s investigation has found that my father was treated appallingly by the Home Office but am desolated that he is not alive to read the report.
Nothing, though, will compensate for the damage done to my father in the last years of his life.
The ombudsman report finds maladministration from the Home Office in three areas: decision-making, record keeping, and complaint handling. It recommends that UKVI and Immigration Enforcement explore the lessons they can learn from the case and report back, write to apologise to Rupert’s family, and pay financial remedy to recognise the distress they have suffered.
In a statement the ombudsman said: A well-loved father and grandfather spent the last years of his life in severe depression and anxiety because he was being wrongfully pursued and threatened by Immigration Enforcement. UKVI failed to adhere to its own standards. It should acknowledge the distress it has caused and make sure cases like this are not repeated.
Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central, added: That he was ever considered for removal from the UK is appalling. The Ombudsman’s findings shine a necessary light on the guidance and the culture which persecuted individuals and which denied them any chance of correcting mistakes that had been made.
And Sukhdeep Singh, who represented Rupert, said:
I first saw Mr. Everett on the 12th May 2016 when he came to GMIAU because he was told a few days earlier that he was going to be deported, even though he had personally handed in proof of his residence in the UK. He was shocked and angry that an Immigration Officer “who had not been in the UK for as long as I have” had personally threatened him with deportation.
I have dealt with a large number of Windrush cases in the last 2 decades, including cases where people who had been in the UK for many decades had their benefits stopped, were not allowed to work, and were made homeless.
This case was very unusual in that Mr. Everett had complete proof of his residence on the UK. As stated in the Ombudsman’s report, “Mr V always had indefinite leave in the UK. It follows that he should not have been targeted for immigration enforcement action and should not have had to go through everything he did”.
Mr. Everett was treated appallingly by the Home office and continued to be treated appallingly even after the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, publically apologised on the 17th of April 2018 for the government’s treatment of the Windrush Generation.
The Home Secretary has to apologise for the action of her department and also commit herself to ensuring that no other family will ever suffer the same treatment.
That Rupert had everything he needed to prove his status and was still disbelieved shows nobody is safe from the Hostile Environment. It’s a policy the government continues today, despite knowledge of the suffering it causes. We call for the Home Secretary to apologise to Rupert’s family, and for an end to the Hostile Environment.
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