This is an account by someone we are supporting at GMIAU to apply for compensation through the Windrush Legal Initiative.

I live in Essex. I came here in 1961 from India. My father was a civil engineer, he came here to work on the railways.  

The liner was supposed to dock in Tilbury but we went into the jetty in Marseilles on the way over. That was the first mishap. We came over here by train and that’s where my life started in England. I was 10. I was put into a primary school instead of a secondary school at first, and they wouldn’t let me go to the grammar school that my mother wanted because I hadn’t been here.  

I left school at 16, and got a job as an apprentice mechanic. And everything was fine – I got a National Insurance number, went through life, paid all my taxes. Until I applied for a passport. I’d come over on my parents’ passport as one of four siblings. My parents applied for citizenship, they became British. My siblings applied for British passports and got them. I didn’t apply for a passport until my late twenties – it never occurred to me because I didn’t need to go anywhere.   

But I got rejected – I didn’t have enough documentation. Then we applied with documentation and they just said no, unfortunately we have no record of you. That was the first indication that there was an issue – no record of me? I thought woah, hold on a minute. It was enormous for me. That was when the alarm bells started ringing.  

I applied for a passport about three or four times after that. I was always rejected, so I was never able to travel. It meant I couldn’t see my wife’s family, in South Africa. One time, my daughter was going to be married in Spain, and obviously wanted me to walk her down the aisle. And that all fell through because I couldn’t get the passport yet again. Everyone’s plans had to change. I felt really bad, I felt terrible, as you can imagine. 

I had a quadruple heart bypass in 2012, and around the same time I started to lose my sight – I’ve lost sight in my left eye and my vision is diminished in my right. I’ve also got dementia. I was given around 6 years before I lose all faculties. I wanted to spend time with family while I still could. 

It also affected jobs I went for. I couldn’t get a proper job, they kept on asking for a passport. I didn’t have a passport. So now who do I work for? I ended up working for agencies all my life – being a salesman, sales manager, it was always for agencies. Never for a reputable company.  

I always felt on the back of my neck that I was going to get called in, or something like that. They said because they’ve got no record of me, they didn’t accept that I was here lawfully, even though I’ve always had the legal right to be here, since the age of 10. It went on and on. I’ve gone through life looking over my shoulder, feeling like a second-class citizen.  

I first heard about the Windrush scandal on the news. I said look, they’re lucky, they’re gonna get bundles of money in compensation. Then the first lot of compensation they offered was £250! I started monitoring it and watching it as things unfolded, and when they started saying about the impact on life, I thought it’s impacted my life – quite badly, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not saying I could have been a lawyer or a doctor, but I’m just saying from early days I felt like this second-class citizen. I couldn’t go and get a decent job, a job my parents would have liked me to have got. It impacted my family life. It’s stopped us from enjoying life – from enjoying a better life.  

I finally got confirmation of my British Citizenship when I applied to the Windrush Scheme in May 2018 and got confirmation of my citizenship in August 2018 – just three months later, after 55 years of them refusing to acknowledge my existence, even after my MP took up my case in 2010. 

I wasn’t sure if I was part of the Windrush campaign or if I would qualify for compensation. I asked my solicitor Nicola, am I just jumping on the bandwagon? But she told me I’m part of it. I’ve realised it’s not just people from the Caribbean – it was all different countries, from the Commonwealth and all around the world. People like me who have had to live with shame, sadness and regret because the Government didn’t acknowledge our right to be here. 

Now I’ve applied for compensation with the help of the Windrush Legal Initiative. I’m not holding my breath for the money. I’m only hoping it’ll come through while I can enjoy it, whatever amount comes through. I’ve read horrendous stories. I feel so sorry for some of the people. Some people couldn’t go see a doctor. I read about a guy who pulled his own teeth out because he couldn’t afford to go to a dentist. Like my father and our family, all those people came here to rebuild this country. And to be treated like that is atrocious. You’d treat an animal better.  

I’d like to say to the Home Office get their act together. It’s also terrible what they’re doing to the refugees now, sending them to Rwanda. Why are they sending them to Rwanda, what’s happened to the Ukrainian refugees, what is the difference? It’s racism. And I’ve felt that all my life. I used to get beaten up as a kid. I’d hear people making derogatory jokes at work. All my life – racism is everywhere. All I hope is that the government can get their act together. 

To find out more about how to get free help to apply to the Windrush Compensation Scheme, click here.