Commonwealth Citizen’s Not Formally Naturalised May Need To Seek Legal Advice
Last week, senior Caribbean diplomats urged the British Home Office to have a “more compassionate” approach towards elderly Commonwealth citizens who are facing removal, despite having living in the UK their entire lives.
According to the best Immigration solicitors in London and migration support groups, there could be thousands of people in the UK who were born in Commonwealth countries, who migrated to the UK as children with their parents, who were never advised they had to apply for naturalisation for their children.
Their Immigration status is therefore precarious, and they risk being detained and/or deported back to a country they have not set foot in since childhood.
In addition, they may struggle to obtain housing, healthcare, pensions and other benefits. Employers may also refuse to hire them as they cannot prove they are living in the UK legally and therefore have a right to work.
The case of Anthony Byron
In December 2017, the Guardian reported the case of Anthony Byron, who, after 52 years in the UK was told he was in the country illegally and may be removed.
Mr Byron left Jamaica in 1965 to join his mother who was working as a seamstress in London. He has lived continuously in England since then, attending school, working and paying taxes as a painter and decorator, and helping to bring up his children and seven grandchildren. It was only due to a last-minute intervention by an Immigration lawyer that Mr Byron was not sent back to Jamaica and was released from detention.
Trouble began for Mr Byron when he applied for a British Passport. He had no form of identification as he had arrived in the UK on his brother’s passport, which was no longer accessible.
Mr Byron is also exceptionally vulnerable, as he cannot read or write. This has compounded his situation, as he has avoided form-filling. “It’s a stigma. It’s hard to tell people that you need help,” he said. As a result, he has very few documents. He has avoided registering with a GP for that reason and never opened a bank account, initially receiving his wage packet in cash (with tax deductions already made) and latterly having money paid into his partner’s account.
His difficulty with reading has meant he was asked to sign forms by Immigration officers, which he could not understand. He has been locked up in detention twice and, had to report to Immigration officials every week.
Immigration solicitors have expressed grave concerns about the Home Office’s determined efforts to aggressively pursue residents of commonwealth decent of retirement age, who have no memory of living in another country.
How we got here – Windrush to the Immigration Act 1971
After the Second World War, Britain suffered a major labour shortage. To rectify this, the country called for migrants from the Commonwealth countries to come and live and work in the UK.
On 22nd June 1948, the Empire Windrush docked in Tilbury Dock from Jamaica, carrying 492 settlors. This event dramatically changed the social structure of Britain forever. In London, many of the immigrants settled in Brixton and Notting Hill. Following the 1958 race riots, Claudia Jones, a Trinidadian political activist and Rhaune Laslett created the Notting Hill Carnival, now a world-famous event celebrated by millions.
Before 1962, all Commonwealth citizens could enter and stay in the UK without any restriction. However, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 made Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKCs), whose passports were not directly issued by the UK Government (i.e. passports issued by the Governor of a colony or by the Commander of a British protectorate), subject to Immigration control. Potential migrants had to supply proof that either they, their parents, or grandparents had been born in Britain.
The Immigration Act 1971 removed the automatic right of Commonwealth citizens to remain in the UK. Similar to the proposals regarding Settled Status aimed at regulating EEA nationals living in Britain after Brexit, Commonwealth citizens could only apply to remain permanently in the UK after they had lived and worked here for five years.
A partial "right of abode" was introduced, lifting all restrictions on immigrants with a direct personal or ancestral connection with Britain.
Parents never registering children
Unfortunately, many parents who arrived in the UK from Commonwealth countries with their children in the 1950s and 60s failed to register those children, or the documentation proving registration has been lost. These people have fallen through the cracks, unable to prove residency pre-1971. Some, like Mr Byron, are living in constant fear of being sent back to a country where they have no family, no friends and no cultural connection.
Guy Hewitt, the Barbados high commissioner in London told the Guardian, “This is affecting people who came and gave a lifetime of service at a time when the UK was calling for workers and migrants, they came because they were encouraged to come here to help build post-World War II Britain and build it into the multicultural place that it is now. These are not people who tried to take advantage of the system. We need to find a compassionate mechanism for resolving this”.
Last night, Channel 4 news reported Mr Byron had been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. However, he knows of at least five others who are still fighting with the Home Office for their right to remain in the UK.
If you are from a Commonwealth country, came to the UK in the 1950s and 60s and are worried you do not have the correct documentation to remain lawfully in the UK, our Immigration solicitors in London can provide you with the best legal advice and representation.
OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected Immigration law firms in London and is a Legal 500 leading firm. By making an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today.