People affected by the Windrush immigration scandal need to act now to secure their futures in the UK, according to a group set up to help and advise them.
The so-called Windrush Generation is the term used to describe migrants from Caribbean and other Commonwealth countries who arrived in the UK beginning in 1948 and 1973. Because immigration rules at the time were more relaxed than they are now, often migrants do not possess paperwork proving their right to live and work in the UK. Fast forward to the 21st Century and immigration rules are much stricter, requiring people to prove they have the right to live, work, train or even access NHS services here.
The Huddersfield Windrush Advocacy Group (HWAG) has been formed to ensure that migrants and their families are in the best possible position to secure permanent right to remain or UK citizenship and, if appropriate, apply for compensation. The UK government has made special arrangements for the Windrush generation and waived the normal fees for right to remain and citizenship applications. But the HWAG fears the government’s current goodwill may be short-lived and has teamed up with local immigration lawyers MyUKVisas to offer guidance and support.
HWAG is led by Councillor Amanda Pinnock (a housing lawyer who has been using her position as a Councillor to ensure that Kirklees Council provides resource to support the work of local Windrush activists).
She said: ‘I have heard from a lot of people who are desperate to talk to someone they can trust about the documentation they need to continue to live and work here in Huddersfield. Government cuts to legal aid budgets mean that most people are now unable to access that type of advice and so I am really grateful to Arta and her colleagues for offering some free support to local people.’
Local MP Barry Sheerman, who has been championing the cause of the Windrush alongside Labour Party colleague David Lammy MP in Parliament said “Migration has brought a great deal of benefit to our community here in Huddersfield over the years and I would urge anyone who doesn’t yet have a visa or passport to contact our local advocacy group for help“.
One Huddersfield resident who has been affected by the Windrush scandal is Phillip Stephens, who has worked with MyUKVisas to secure British citizenship under the new arrangements.
He said: I came here in 1967 and I arrived with a British passport for the Commonwealth. I was nine-years-old. Despite having lived here for 51 years I was unable to prove that I was British and get a passport. A couple of my friends have already been sent back to the West Indies because of this terrible situation. It is hard to believe that this country can treat people so shamefully. Hopefully the government has now come to its senses and is making good on its promise to help us all.’
Other members of the HWAG are Hugh Goulbourne (a local trade union and community activist) and Natalie Pinnock-Hamilton (a trustee of Building African Communities). The Group also has representatives from the Jamaica National Council and local Trade Unions.
MyUKVisas is a specialist immigration law firm based in Huddersfield. The Managing Director of the firm is Arta Heath, a lawyer with over 20 years of experience of dealing with all aspects of immigration. This experience included working at the Law Centre before setting up her own specialist immigration practice.
Ms Heath said: ‘UK immigration officials were have unfortunately been treating many Windrush migrants of the Windrush Generation as illegal immigrants and many have been denied access to public services such as health and education or, even worse, deported. The good news is that publicity about their plight has forced the government into a U-turn and special arrangements are now in place to enable people to apply for citizenship and compensation. However, people need to act now while this situation is still in the public eye and the government is motivated to be helpful.’
The HWAG will help people affected by the Windrush scandal to:
Initial legal advice is free and people should contact Call Amanda Pinnock to find out more: 07766 221810.
Notes to News Editors
For further information contact Cllr Amanda Pinnock on 07766 221810 or Arta Heath on 07931 327665.