You may, or may not have recently become aware of the increasing plight of a certain section of British society.
There’s this group of people, many of them Caribbeans, but some from other backgrounds as well, that have been apparently targeted as suddenly having ‘no status’.
This phrase, ‘no status’ was new to me a short while ago, so I did a bit of research to find out more.
As an aside – by reading this blog post you will be partaking in a form of telepathy. It was Stephen King, the prolific author, who suggested that writing is an act of telepathy because someone somewhere has ideas and thoughts, writes them down and then they are transmitted via the form of a book to the mind of another person, in a different time and space.
Stephen King also said something like even though the writer and reader may not even be in the same year together, or the same room, they are still together. They’re close because the very words used are the means of telepathy – they have effectively engineered a meeting of minds. So, I’m hoping that in this blog, and others to come, there will be occasional meetings of my mind with yours.
So, back to the ‘no status’ situation.
Following the Brexit vote there’s been a recorded increase in overt racism.
There have been over 45,000 changes to immigration rules since Theresa May became Home Secretary on 12th May 2010 – and I’m positive many more are on the books now that she’s Prime Minister – a position she’s had since July 2016.
The point is, with all these changes my concern is how the people affected by them have been informed about the changes to their personal circumstances – or not, as the case may be.
Many people only know that things have changed for them when they get a letter from their employer, as in the case of 64 year old Renford McIntyre who has been living in the UK for almost fifty years.
Little over a year ago he was told that he’s not British and consequently is no longer allowed to work or receive any government support in the form of any social benefit at all.
So, after arriving by plane in England in 1968 – and going through passport control and all the other legal requirements of entry into a country, he settle down to study and later work as a British Citizen – just as his parents had before him: his mother was a nurse and his father was a crane operator.
Anyway, in 2014 his employers asked him to update his paperwork and when it was discovered that he no longer had a valid passport or naturalisation papers, he was sacked. Of course, he couldn’t get a new job without the papers, so he became depressed, and eventually homeless because his local council, Dudley Council, in the West Midlands, said he was not eligible for emergency housing because according to official records from the Home Office he had no right to be in this country.
So, in an effort to prove his status as a British citizen, Renford McIntyre gathered 35 years of paperwork showing – among other things – his National Insurance contributions, and sent an application to the Home Office for his retrospective citizenship. Despite this bundle of evidence of his life, his work, his contributions to society and the British infrastructure, the Home Office rejected and returned the application, requesting yet further evidence.
Renford McIntyre is part of a group of people who have lived and contributed to society as British citizens, yet now they are reaching retirement age, after being settled in this country for the majority of their lives, the Home Office is re-classifying them as illegal immigrants with ‘no status’.
The cost of making an application for a visa and citizenship continues to rise. It can now cost £2,297 to become a permanent resident and an additional £1,282 for citizenship – that’s where you have to take a citizenship test that has the most obscure questions that even the majority of people born and bred here would be hard pushed to answer without the use of Google!
Bear in mind, accord to a Freedom of Information request, it costs just £264 to process an application that is currently charged at £2,297. Let the sink in for a moment.
The Home Office released their own figures in September 2017 that stated it costs £135 per citizenship application, yet they are charging up to 900 per cent more on many applications.
900 per cent profit on a single citizenship application!
In response to the FOI request the Home Office stated, “When setting fees, we also consider the benefits that a successful applicant is likely to gain and believe that it is right that those who use and benefit directly from the system make an appropriate contribution towards meeting associated costs.”
Remember that the people I’m discussing have already spent their lives paying into the British system through National Insurance contributions and taxes on their income.
Additionally the Home Office is now charging £5.48 (payable in advance) for each email it sends in response to customer service enquiries from overseas’ visa applicants. So applicants have to pay to enquire how to make an application! Confusing? I think so.
This is a result of the ‘hostile environment’ that Theresa May said she wanted to introduced for illegal migrants with the Immigration Act that became law on the 12th May 2016.
I understand the need to monitor illegal migrants, the problem I have with the cases I’m talking about today is that they are not illegal migrants, they are British citizens. People who have been born here in Britain, or who have come here legally and have somehow, by some mysterious bureaucratic shuffling behind the scenes, unbeknown to them, been reclassified from British Citizens to people with ‘no status’.
The Independent newspaper, summed it up quite well in an article published in … September 2017, when they stated, “The Tories’ immigration system is based on a reactionary agenda, not reason” … the paper goes on to note that Paul Blomfield, MP, has said that the failures of the Government is endless – examples of this assertion can be shown in the way the Government enforces inhumane mass deportations, and how they don’t assess asylum claims in a fair and timely manner.
Paul Blomfield also confirmed that the Ombudsman upholds more complaints against the Home Office than any other Government department.
In 2015-16 the Ombudsman upheld 75% of complaints against the Home Office, compared to 36% about the Ministry of Justice and 10% about HM Revenue & Customs. The 2015-16 figures represent a rise – from already high figures – it must be said– of 60% in 2013-14, and 69% of complaints against the Home Office in 2014-15.
Anyway, figures aside. Let’s talk about real people.
Renford McIntyre who I mentioned earlier – who had provided proof of his 35 years of National Insurance contributions and other information with his formal citizenship application – finally received a verbal acknowledgement from the Home Office that he has ‘settled status’ – but he’s still waiting for written confirmation and is therefore still in limbo because he’s still homeless, and unable to get another job because he doesn’t have the official paperwork in his possession. Of course, it’s natural that his stress continues to rise, and he’s afraid that he’ll remain vulnerable and may be forced to leave the country to go to and live in a country that is as strange to him as he is to it.
My concern about this situation is that many people will fall back on the stock phrase – too well used by politicians and others – that they are sending ‘thoughts and prayers’ for Renford McIntyre, Hubert Howard, Paulette Wilson, Albert Thompson and many others like them in similar situations, my point is that thoughts and prayers may well be useful for those offering them, but the people I’ve just named need reparative action not thoughts and prayers.
Take for example, Albert Thompson. Albert Thompson – not his real name – for legal purposes you understand – is a Londoner. He is 63 years old and was a teenager when he arrived in the UK in 1973. Albert Thompson has been diagnosed with cancer, but he has been refused continued treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London because they are not satisfied that he’s got enough evidence that he has been ‘ordinarily resident and legally entitled to live in the UK’.
Well, they didn’t refuse him treatment outright, they offered him the option to pay for it. Upfront. In full. All of it before he could start to receive the chemotherapy for his diagnosed cancer. It’s just a small matter of paying £54,000 in advance they told him. I’ll leave that there for a moment so you can pick up your outrage of the floor.
So, there it is, pay £54,000 or bring your British passport to the hospital as proof of your status.
What if you don’t travel, have no intention to travel and have therefore have never held a British passport?
Is this information only required from Black people seeking NHS care, or from all people regardless of ethnic origin or skin colour?
Just some questions I’ve posed to myself after my research and reading.
Anyway, since this particular case was reported in the national press the Royal Marsden has issued an apology to Albert Thompson, but they haven’t started his chemotherapy treatment yet. They need take positive action, not send a mere apology – their apology is as much practical use as offering ‘thoughts and prayers’.
You see I think Albert Thompson needs life-saving treatment to start. It needs to start now. Not when the missing paperwork is correctly filed. The evidence that he’s been living and working in London for 44 years is there – we know it’s there. The government has records of his employment and national insurance contributions, and, of course, his tax payments.
This man needs to be treated properly, like the British citizen he is and has been for all the 44 years that he has been working and paying taxes.
My personal opinion is that Albert Thompson has effectively been used as free labour for over four decaded, and now that he’s ill and unable to work he has been discarded and denied assistance that is due to him. It makes me think that another form of slavery is alive and kicking, right here in the UK. I believe that we are still in chains after all these years. The system is still stacked against Black people.
It’s not news that there is institutional racism in establishments like the police force, health care, and schools – to name a few, but that doesn’t mean that we have to sit back and accept it.
Too many people like to say that racism is a thing of the past, it’s not. Ask the school boy in Bath this past week, who was allegedly chained to a lamppost and whipped in a ‘mock slave auction’. There’s no humour in this.
Being prodded with sticks and called extreme racist names is not funny no matter which way you look at it. It’s abuse. It’s racial prejudice – plain and simple.
As is the racist chanting as directed at a student at Nottingham Trent University, and a similar incident at the De Montfort University in Leicester. Experiencing racism is an everyday occurrence for many Black people, ranging from micro aggressions to death.
Yeah, death. It’s that serious. Ask Albert Thompson.
My point is, these ‘no status’ cases are predominantly affecting Black people, and especially people from the Caribbean – members of the Commonwealth, many of whom migrated to the UK to help rebuild the country after the devastation of the second World War. It’s affecting the health of those on the receiving end of this treatment – some of whom – like Albert Thompson – are already facing serious health issues.
This is not how we should be treating British citizens. There’s no other way to describe it except to say that it’s wrong. Commonwealth citizens who are also British citizens are being dumped by the British Government after a lifetime’s work – they are being treated like rubbish.
As I mentioned before, I think the use of the phrase ‘thoughts and prayers’ in terrible situations needs to be backed up with action. My part is to spread awareness of the situation that’s affecting this group of people.
I’d like to suggest that if you know any one who is in a similar situation, please reach out and help them to ensure that their paperwork is up to date so they don’t end up being deported to a country they have no current links with.
Feel free to contact me via this podcast and I will share all the information that I have to help those in need. I’ll signpost you and them to organisations like Praxis Community Projects, Southwark Law Centre, and the solicitors Duncan Lewis.
So, there we have it – serious talk.
No status. Settled status. British citizen. The last two should be synonymous. It’s a terrible and distressing situation that so many people are suddenly discovering themselves to be in. We’ve got to do something to change this unfair system.
Of all the few names I’ve mentioned remember there are hundreds more who go overlooked and are subject to the Tory Government policy of ‘deport first, appeal later’.
Think about it, how would you like your sibling, your Mum, Dad, Grandad, cousin … the list goes on, how would you like to have your only interaction with them via international social media? There’s even an official term for it, ‘Skype family’. It’s destructive and inhumane.
Let’s hope more coverage and awareness of this situation will make sure that people have their rights protected as the British citizens they’ve been for decades.
I could go on … but I’d better stop now. There’s lots for you – and me – to think about. And to do something about. Let’s not leave it at ‘thoughts and prayers’, let’s make a difference to the people we know in the communities we live in.
Seriously, reach out and make sure those you know are protected. Do it. Don’t just think about it. Do something.