UK Prime Minister blanks Caricom leaders …”TRINIS IN TROUBLE IN ENGLAND”

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Deportation is on the cards for Trinidad and Tobago nationals living in the United Kingdom.

If your papers are not in order, you face a bleak future in that country, Foreign Office sources in London added.

Like those who live in the United States and face an ICE crackdown, the authorities in the UK are going after illegal immigrants in light of an increase in crime in that country.

With the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference starting in London on Monday, Caricom Heads requested a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss the situation. And the answer is no. The Jamaican Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, is making another effort to meet with May on Thursday to discuss the crisis facing Caribbean people.

And what is our Prime Minister going to do?

Trinidad and Tobago is among 12 Caribbean countries raising concern about threats to long term British residents, who went to the United Kingdom as children nearly 50 years ago.

An article in the London Guardian said the British government rejected a formal diplomatic request to discuss the immigration problems being experienced by some Windrush-generation British residents at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

The article said 10 Downing Street turned down a request from representatives of 12 Caribbean countries for a meeting with May at the conference on this issue. A post on the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission’s page on April 13 said, “High Commissioner Orville London together with other Caribbean High Commissioners complain over threats to long-term UK residents.”

In the article, Barbados High Commissioner Guy Hewitt said, “We did make a request to the CHOGM summit team for a meeting to be held between the Prime Minister and the Commonwealth Caribbean heads of government who will be here for the CHOGM. Regrettably, that is not possible.”

The article claimed some of these people have been threatened with deportation to their former Caribbean countries, others have been denied access to healthcare, lost jobs or been made homeless because they do not have sufficient paperwork to prove they have the right to be in the UK.

British government officials said the issue is not on the conference agenda but there would be a number of opportunities for the heads of Caribbean delegations to meet with May and discuss this important issue.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will meet with Trinidad and Tobago nationals resident in the UK at the Amba Hotel Marble Arch in London on April 23 at 2 pm.

A petition, independent of the action taken by the 12 Caribbean High Commissioners to the UK, has been set up, calling on the British government to grant an immigration amnesty to those who arrived in Britain as minors between 1948 and 1971. The petition has so far been supported by more than 50,000 signatories. Should 100,000 people sign the petition, the Petitions Committee will consider it for debate in British Parliament.

The refusal has given Caribbean diplomats the impression that the UK government is not taking a sufficiently serious approach to the problem that is affecting large numbers of long-term UK residents who came to Britain as children.

Hewitt said the numbers of people coming forward to say they were affected by the immigration anomaly were increasing exponentially. Satbir Singh, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said dozens of people had contacted the charity seeking help after publicity around the issue last week.

Seth George Ramocan,  the Jamaican high commissioner, said he would be seeking to raise the issue despite the lack of a formal meeting. “We have senior citizens in limbo. It is not explicitly on the agenda, but we want our heads of government to bring it to the attention of the wider body.”

Late on Friday, the Home Office issued a guidance summary of what Commonwealth-born, long-term UK residents should do if they were concerned that they did not have the necessary papers to prove their right to be in the UK.

It adds: “We recognize that this is causing problems for some individuals who have lost documents over the long period of time they have been in the UK … No one with the right to be here will be required to leave.”

The guidance acknowledges that problems are only now beginning to arise because of newly tightened immigration rules, and states: “Recent changes to the law mean that if you wish to work, rent property or have access to benefits and services in the UK then you will need documents to demonstrate your right to be in the UK. The government believes this is a proportionate measure to maintain effective immigration control.”

However, there was nothing new in the guidance, and charities working with people in this situation expressed frustration that the government continued to suggest that individuals seek legal advice. That is often prohibitively expensive for people who have been told they are not permitted to work and are not eligible for benefits.

There is a growing awareness of the problem, which may affect thousands of people who came from Commonwealth countries as children, often travelling on their parents’ passports, who have never formally naturalised.

Although anyone living here continuously since before 1 January 1973 is legally entitled to live in the UK, people who have not applied for passports (often because they have never had enough money to travel outside the UK) may struggle to prove that they are entitled to be here.

Some people moved to the UK before the countries in which they were born in became independent, and assumed that they were British. The Migration Observatory at Oxford University, estimates that about 50,000 Commonwealth-born persons in the UK, who arrived before 1971, may not yet have regularised their residency status and could be vulnerable to these difficulties.

Kimberly McIntosh, of the race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust, said: “It is shameful and abhorrent that this is where we are, 70 years after Windrush. We need a resolution for all of the Windrush Commonwealth long-term residents.”

Singh has warned of the significant discriminatory element to the new immigration rules, which risk leading to decisions being made by NHS staff, employers and landlords based on racial profiling, influenced by skin colour and accents.

He called on the government to introduce a solution which was “free, fast and fair”, proposing a window to be introduced during which people could be helped to sort out the difficulty, with legal advice given, and Home Office fees waived.

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THERESA MAY
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ANDREW HOLNESS
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DR KEITH ROWLEY 

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