The Commonwealth, Colonialism and the Legacy of Homophobia

How are these three disparate entities connected? The answer is – very closely.

When is an appropriate time to review this subject? Any time is, but especially now as the UK hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) between 16 – 20 April 2018 in London and surrounding locations.

 

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The Commonwealth consists of 53 member states  and 80 organisations that exist in locations around the globe and work together to promote democracy and peace. Over 40% of the world’s young people (640 million out of 1.8 billion) are members of the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth countries include 19 in the African continent, 7 in Asia, 3 in Europe, and 11 in the Pacific: these are all locations where the footprint of colonialism has been stamped, and where the legacy of the imperialist laws relating to same-sex relations, are still being experienced. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in conversation with Reni Eddo-Lodge, comments that colonialism is not historical, it is contemporary: the effects are present everyday. 

Of the 72 countries in the world where same-sex intimacy is categorised as a criminal offence, 36 of them are member states of the Commonwealth, and 9 of these have life imprisonment as a penalty, whilst in two there is risk of execution. The colonial legal legacy from the British Empire in 1860 criminalised ‘unnatural carnal desires’ under section 377 of many country’s penal systems. This conservative Victorian edict has remained entrenched in the legal structures of 36 Commonwealth member states.

In March 2018 there were 37 member states against equality for same-sex Commonwealth citizens. However, a recent challenge to these homophobic colonial laws, which deny a legal right to privacy, was made in 2017 in the High Courts of Trinidad and Tobago by the UK based LGBT activist Jason Jones. The pronouncement, on 12 April 2018, has become a landmark ruling as homosexuality has been decriminalised in Trinidad and Tobago. Justice Devindra Rampersad, delivering his ruling from the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago agreed that Section 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act, which criminalise anal sex, were unconstitutional and violate Jones’ right to privacy, liberty and freedom of expression – the colonial sodomy laws are an inbuilt Imperial homophobic threat carved into the common law of many countries.

The colonial ‘saving clause’ dictated that laws could not be changed after independence, yet the Government of Trinidad and Tobago have twice amended the Sexual Offences Act since the country’s independence from Britain in 1962: in 1986 the Trinidad and Tobago parliament increased the maximum sentence for sodomy to 10 years imprisonment, and in 2000 the penalty for ‘the offence of buggery’ was again increased to 25 years. The government changes to the law enabled Jason Jones to bring his case to the courts as the Government’s 1986 and 2000 Sexual Offences Act changes nullified the ‘saving clause’.

Following the April 2018 ruling, the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago, Faris al-Rawi, said “Our society has changed significantly in its view on tolerating homosexuality, and radically so within the last generation,” yet Stuart Young from the Ministry of the Attorney General, confirmed that the State will appeal Justice Rampersad’s decision.

The week of the CHOGM has seen protests outside of Commonwealth House in London, where activist groups such as African Equality Foundation, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation, along with members of the public have been lobbying the Commonwealth Heads of Government to discuss LGBT issues at the meeting. This proposal has not been accepted in over 6 decades of meetings, with any discussions on LGBT matters being sidelined to NGOs.

There are some Commonwealth leaders who are supporters of equality, however these people, for example Desmond Tutu, Christopher Senyonjo, Festus Mogae, and Joaquin Chissano have historically not been given a voice in the global Commonwealth forum. A petition, by Edwin Sesange, of the African Equality Foundation, calling for an end to LGBT+ persecution in the Commonwealth, was delivered to the Commonwealth headquarters  with over 104,000 signatures the week before the summit began.  This petition appealed for all Commonwealth countries to:

  • Decriminalise same-sex relations
  • Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation & gender identity
  • Enforce laws against & violence, to protect LGBTI people from hate crime
  • Consult and dialogue with LGBTI organisation

At the start of the CHOGM Peter Tatchell, who has been campaigning against anti-gay laws for over 30 years, wrote a letter to Theresa May, as the British Head of State hosting the Commonwealth summit, asking her to apologise for imposing anti-gay laws – the full apology did not happen, although in a NGO Commonwealth Forum, that ran concurrently with the Heads of States meetings, the UK Prime Minister did express ‘deep regrets’ for Britain’s historical legacy of homophobic laws across the Commonwealth.

The criminalisation of LGBT+ people is a clear breach of the human rights of the Commonwealth citizens and goes against the Section II on Human Rights as written in the Commonwealth Charter that starts with the words:

“We the people of the Commonwealth …”

We are committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments. We are committed to equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, for all without discrimination on any grounds as the foundations of peaceful, just and stable societies. We note that these rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and cannot be implemented selectively. We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds. (Section II on Human Rights)

The last sentence of this Human Rights section confirms that the member states of the Commonwealth are opposed “to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.” Unfortunately, by their continual refusal to openly discuss the matter of colonialism and the legacy of homophobia on the formal agenda, the Commonwealth Heads of Government are denying their commitment to equality and protection of civil, social, social and economic rights of the citizens of their individual nations.

The CHOGM sessions have concluded without LGBT+ rights being included on the agenda.

However, following the victory in the Trinidad and Tobago courts on 12 April 2018, Jason Jones said, “This victory is much more than just the legal challenge and constitutional reforms. It is a rallying cry for the LGBT community and our allies to stand up and be counted! This represents the first moment in the history of the English speaking Caribbean that we have become truly visible and in a populist and meaningful manner. Yes, there was pushback but we are pushing forward in ways never seen before. This is the Rosa Parks moment for LGBT people of the Caribbean and we shall NEVER sit in the back of the bus again.”

In Britain, UK Black Pride – led by Phyll Opoku-Gyimah – and the African Equality Foundation, continue to work alongside other LGBTI activists to campaign for full equality for all within the UK and the Commonwealth.

Opoku-Gyimah was widely reported for turning down a MBE in 2016, some of her reasons were relating to the toxic legacy of colonialism on LGBT+ people, she stated: “I don’t believe in, and actively resist, colonialism and its toxic and enduring legacy in the Commonwealth, where – among many other injustices – LGBTQI [lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex) people are still being persecuted, tortured and even killed because of sodomy laws, including in Ghana, where I am from, that were put in place by British imperialists.

As the CHOGM 2018 closed in London on the 20 April 2018, the resistance that Opoku-Gyimah expressed in 2016 must be continued by all equality activists until there are full human rights for all Commonwealth citizens regardless of nationality or sexuality.

Marjorie H Morgan © 2018

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While the Commonwealth Heads of Government meet in London, former Commonwealth citizens are still being mistreated in the UK: Urgent Questions are asked in the House

As the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) starts in the UK today (16 April 2018) it is an ideal time to ask what will happen to the children of the Commonwealth who came here as British citizens over 70 years ago?

The infomercial promoting the CHOGM states “This is our Commonwealth” and “What’s agreed on this week matters to us all,” so it seems ironic that for weeks the British Government has refused to discuss a situation that affects such a large number of former Commonwealth citizens within its own borders. Amelia Gentleman, from the Guardian, tweeted that she contacted Downing Street on Friday (13 Apr 2018) about these cases that she has been reporting, yet the Prime Minister’s office have said that Theresa May “had only become aware of the request on Monday morning and confirmed that she would be holding a meeting ‘at the earliest possible opportunity’ with Caribbean leaders.”

At around 13:00 today, the Prime Minister, Theresa May tweeted, “The Commonwealth has never just been about heads of state and government. It has always been an organisation in which people and businesses from around the world can come together and work together to improve all our lives,” yet she initially refused to discuss the case of the ‘Windrush Generation’ at the CHOGM.

When asked last week to discuss what appears to be a travesty of justice, the Prime Minister rejected the formal diplomatic request leaving the Caribbean heads of government to conclude that the British government was not taking this matter seriously. 

Theresa May has also stated that the CHOGM is the “largest summit our country has ever hosted.” Apparently in the Commonwealth every country has a voice, yet the Caribbean people who migrated to Britain over half a century ago have so far remained voiceless and unrepresented by the British Government.

Following the publication of a letter signed by over 140 MPs from across the political parties, Theresa May has now agreed to meet with representatives from 12 Caribbean countries who are at the CHOGM in the UK. The immigration minister Caroline Noakes has also admitted that some Caribbean British citizens have been deported in error, although she would not qualify the amount of people that have been affected by the “terrible mistakes” in this way.

The Commonwealth had 2.4 billion citizens across 53 countries – many of them have requesteda discussion on this matter, yet the Tory led British Government will not agree to open the discussion on this abominable situation that is clearly a breach of the Commonwealth Charter.

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The current Commonwealth Charter was signed by HM Queen Elizabeth II on Commonwealth Day 2013. Its firsts words are “We the people of the Commonwealth …” Section II on Human Rights is shown here in full:

We are committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments. We are committed to equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, for all without discrimination on any grounds as the foundations of peaceful, just and stable societies. We note that these rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and cannot be implemented selectively. We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.

The last sentence of this Human Rights section confirms that the member states of the Commonwealth are opposed “to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.” Alas, by their continual refusal to discuss this matter openly, the British Government is following several other Commonwealth nations who disregard the commitment to equality and protection of civil, social, social and economic rights of the citizens of their individual nations.

Labour MP, David Lammy has secured an Urgent Question in the House of Commons at 15:30 on the immigration status of the Windrush Generation. This is following a letter signed by 140 cross party MPs urging Theresa May to take action, and correct this “historic wrong”. Lammy stated that having to raise this question in the house was indicative of a “national day of shame”.

In response to Lammy’s question the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd MP, read from a prepared statement. Her opening remarks asserted that, “there is absolutely no question about their right to remain,” and she confirmed that she will establish a new team of 20 people who will help these residents evidence their right to be in the UK, and to access the necessary services.

The Home Secretary suggested that with this dedicated team cases will take a maximum of two weeks to resolve, and she also assured members of the House that they would be no charges levied on applicants, as “no one should be left out of pocket”.

David Lammy noted that the relationship between the UK and the Caribbean is inextricable since the arrival of the first British ships in the area in 1623. Lammy reminded the house that the Nationality Act of 1948 ensured that Caribbean people migrating to the UK did so as British citizens. He continued that it is “inhumane and cruel for so many of that Windrush Generation to have suffered so long in this condition, and for the Secretary of State only to have made a statement today.”


Lammy also enquired if the Home Secretary could “tell the House how many have been detained as prisoners in their own country … how many have been denied help under the National Health Service, how many have been denied pensions and how many have lost their jobs?”

These questions were not directly answered.

With obvious emotional Lammy stated that having to raise this question in the house was indicative of a “national day of shame”  that “has come about because of a hostile environment policy that was begun under her prime minister.”

The only concession from Rudd was her concern that the Home Office “has become too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes lose sight of the individual.” Rudd asserted that she has acted now because she has seen the individual stories now and, “some of them have been terrible.” Following this statement she reasserted her commitment to ensuring that cross-departmental information is shared to verify the identity of these individuals and to protect the ‘Windrush cohorts’. Rudd repeated that she was not aware of any specific cases or deportation in these circumstance of lack of up-to-date documentation.

I believe this ‘Windrush Generation’ crisis is deliberate. It’s not an anomaly – it’s structural discrimination. The lives of these Caribbean British elders and their families was deemed collateral damage when the latest immigration laws were enacted. This is the result of systemic and discriminatory government behaviour.

Cross party members of the house raised several questions about individual cases of their own constituents as well as general queries relating to the status of Commonwealth citizens from countries such as India, Uganda, and Poland. The Home Secretary used her stock phrase to respond to these queries – she suggested that the Members contact the Home Office with details of each case so that they could look at them individually, because she repeatedly declared that the “Home Office will be more focused on individuals rather than policy.”

There were several questions from members across the floor including Simon Hoare, MP for North Devon, who asked if there would be a refund of the fees that Caribbean elders had already expense.

Anna Soubry, MP for Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire, was interested to know if this statement from the Home Secretary meant that the default Home Office response of saying, ‘No’ would now alter.

Mark Harper, MP for Forest of Dean, asked what proactive steps the Government would be making to communicate information to those British residents that might be affected by this institutional discrimination. While Joanne Cherry, SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, observed that this the Home Secretary was wrong that this issue “is not just about individuals it’s about a systemic policy put out by her (Home Secretary) department and it’s symptomatic of the politically driven hostile environment policy, and it’s a sign that it has to stop,” because according to the Migration Observatory at Oxford, there are up to 50,000 Commonwealth born people in this situation.

To many of these questions the Home Secretary responded that she would seek advice or data and get back to the individual Member because the ‘Windrush Generation’ “are here legally and we will help them.”

Diane Abbot, MP for Hackney, asked why in 2014 the Government, under the direction of the then Home Secretary Theresa May removed the protection for Commonwealth citizens without parliamentary debate or scrutiny. Much like Theresa May choosing to engage in air strike in Syria without parliamentary debate or scrutiny this week.

Abbott also requested a cessation on deportations of this groups of people aligned with an apology, and possible compensation, to those wrongfully deported in this immigration policy scandal.

Amber Rudd tried to reassure members of the House with her concluding remarks that indicated that the Government is regarding this situation seriously when she announced that the Prime Minister would be meeting with the Heads of Government on Tuesday 17 April 2018 while she, as Home Secretary, would be meeting with High Commissioners this week to discuss this issue “as a matter of urgency.”

The Home Secretary’s final words to the House were “what I am interested in is effective, sympathetic outcomes.”

Most people simply want justice for Caribbean British elders.

Well, we will have to wait and see what we get from this Home Secretary Amber Rudd and her dedicated team of 20.

A Home Office official stated that legislation “is complex and, when revising it, it is the normal process to simplify it where possible and remove duplications.” Laws are complicated, and anomalies occur, yet all available evidence seems to indicate that the Caribbean British elders were deliberately targeted by the removal of their protection in 2014.

The outcomes of the meetings arranged this week with the CHOGM and the Caribbean High Commissioners is eagerly awaited.

 

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

Cruelty by design towards British Caribbean elders

windrush flags 70 years

 

Information about the cases of the Caribbean British elders being systematically targeted and often deported from their British homes has been widely circulated in the past few weeks. Many members of British society, included the affected British elders, were unaware that they were a part of a group of people who were not officially categorised as British until they tried to access health care or were required to provide additional documentation for their employers in line with the online Employers’ Checking Service for Biometric Residence Permits (BRP) that began in June 2012.

This anomaly has arisen because the Government system has failed to correctly file papers relating to the adults and children of Windrush generation – the British subjects who migrated to the UK from the Caribbean and other parts of the Commonwealth in the late 1940s and 1950s to help to rebuild the Mother Country.

As the shock of this situation reached across the British nation public figures such as David Lammy MP, and celebrities, including David Harewood, and Sir Lenny Henry – who is himself descended from Caribbean British parents – have called for the public to sign a petition created by Patrick Vernon OBE, requesting an amnesty for anyone who was a minor that arrived in Britain between 1948 and 1971.

To be considered for a debate in parliament, petitions have to obtain at least 100,000 signatures, this petition, created on the 6 October 2018, has already exceeded this amount of signatories. The Government is also required to respond to all petitions once they obtain more than 10,000 signatures. As a response to this public outcry, the Government has finally, on 13 April 2018, published some guidance around this matter. This appears to be the first Government response to repeated requests for guidance and information around the process that has targeted this group of British citizens.

The information on the Government website has been produced by the UK Visas and Immigration department that is part of the Home Office. The Government provides information for this group of Caribbean British elders that they are now referring to as ‘Undocumented Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK.’ The page is careful to note that the information therein is not a substitute for immigration advice, although it does note that if “you entered the UK before 1 Jan 1973 then the chances are you are entitled to live here permanently. Your status is only broken following a long period outside of the UK (2 years).

There are a number of steps that these Caribbean British elders will now have to undertake in order to verify their status as British citizens and prove they have right of abode in the UK. The first step is to apply for a “no-time limit” biometric resident permit (BRP), followed by applying for British Citizenship if they are successful with the initial step.

The “no-time limit” biometric permit application is for someone who already has indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK. There is a standard associated cost of £229 per person, and applications can also be made at Premium Service Centres for same day consideration of the application – at the premium cost of £610 per person. A mobile super premium service is also available at the cost of £10,500 per visit – this final service tier means that you will usually get your decision with 24 hours, as you can decided the location and time of the visit (between midday and 3pm, Monday to Friday) when the premium service staff will visit you to get your biometric information (fingerprint and photo), and your signature. This last service option may have to be used in a desperate final effort to stop impending deportation because the process of challenging the Home Office decisions increases in complexity and cost when a person has been forcibly removed from their British homes and relocated to a different country.

BRPs were introduced in the UK in 2008 and have automatically been distributed to members of the British public when they have replaced old documents; these cards are used to confirm identity, the right to work and study in the UK, and the entitlement to access any public services or benefits. The BRP is a card issued by the Home Office that contains evidence of immigration permissions (also known as leave to enter or remain), and includes a microchip with two of the resident’s fingerprints and a digital photograph. The BRP is required documentation if the resident does not have indefinite leave to remain (ILR) endorsed in a current passport.

The current procedure for obtaining permanent British residency dictates that once a resident gets ILR they cannot apply for British Citizenship for at least 12 months and have to have been in the UK for five years preceding application for citizenship. Therefore when these Caribbean British elders, who have been living and working in the UK for their entire lives, do obtain their official ILR they will still be faced with another delayed wait for a year before their British Citizenship is confirmed. British Citizenship is now dependent on where you were born (in the UK or a qualifying British overseas territory), when you were born (before or after 1 January 1983) and your parents’ circumstances at the time of your birth.

The Government website states that, “All citizens of Commonwealth countries were British subjects until January 1983,” therefore this should be a straightforward matter for those Caribbean British elders who have been subjected to extensive questioning regarding their status. Yet, a raft of recent cases have proved that this has not been the situation that many, like Elwaldo Romeo, Sarah O’Connor, and Albert Thompson have found themselves in.

The Home Office have also published a blog to say that Government policy around the rights of Commonwealth citizens has not changed, however because of the introduction of the hostile environment towards migrants in the UK who wish to work, live and use public services, there have been new laws implemented to ensure that these migrants have the correct documents to demonstrate their right to be in the UK and entitlement to use public services.

On the same fact sheet page the Home Office claims that there are existing solutions available to obtain the correct documentation for settled status, and that they “have no intention of making people leave who have the right to remain here.” These solutions all involve hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of pounds in application fees, forms and tests for people who have been British citizens for their entire adult lives.

The facts of the cases already listed above and in previous posts seem to contradict the statement that the Government made saying it has no intention of making people leave because many Caribbean British elders have already been detained, deported or refused entry back into the country after a lifetime’s work here.

The Home Office also states that the government makes “no apologies for our commitment to build an immigration system which works in the best interest of the country and prevents vulnerable people from finding themselves at risk of exploitation.”

These newly implemented laws have highlighted an error in the Government system relating to the right of abode for long-term British residents from the Commonwealth. These people, have somehow mysteriously remained undocumented and ignored in central government systems – despite paying taxes, having National Insurance numbers, and decades of employment records – and they are now being unfairly treated and labeled as people with ‘no status’ and therefore categorised as not being the British Citizens the 1983 law identifies them as.

As Gary Younge, from the Guardian newspaper, succinctly states, this is cruelty by design as people like Michael Braithwaite have violated no law; it’s the law that is violating themTherefore  all financial charges relating to proving British citizenship should be waived for Caribbean British elders who have been long term residents in the UK – that’s justice. They should not have to pay for an error that has been created by the Government systems that are supposed to be in place to protect them.

National Geographic continues to fail

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April 2018 cover – “Black and White: These twin sisters make us rethink everything we know about race”  – the National Geographic (Nat Geo) says it’s covering and addressing its past racist coverage, yet in the article associated with the cover photo of the April 2018 issue, Patricia Edmonds continues the form of reporting that Nat Geo says it’s moving away from.

The fraternal twin girls shown on the cover, Millie and Marcia Biggs, are described thus: “From a young age the girls had similar features but very different color schemes. Marcia had light brown hair and fair skin like her English-born mother. Millie had black hair and brown skin like her father, who’s of Jamaican descent.” Therein lies the continuing problem of discriminatory reporting.

“English-born mother … and … father, who’s of Jamaican descent.”

As an English-born person who is of Jamaican descent this description is problematic for me because Edmonds’ article insinuates, in standard Nat Geo racist tones, that the white mother equates to the English-born descriptor and the Jamaican descent father is the black hair and brown skin ‘other’ in the equation.

Nat Geo is still reinforcing the idea that to be English-born you are automatically viewed as white, whilst Jamaicans are generalised as black; this diametric opposition is what was the root of Nat Geo’s historical reporting, and this issue, as well meaning as it is supposed to be, has failed to reposition itself away from stereotypical statements, photographs and phrases like ‘very different color schemes’.

Some of the questions that arose for me when reading this article were: from what nationality does the English-born mother, Amanda Wanklin, descend? Where was the black hair and brown skin father, Michael Biggs, born? If it is important to describe the birth place of one parent and the descent of the other parent, then in an effort to reduce racial stereotypes and promote equality surely the same conditions should be applied to both parents?

Isn’t the tone of this article reinforcing the same stereotypes ingrained in white American culture that the editor-in-chief, Susan Goldberg, suggests that this issue is supposed to be pushing its readers beyond? To me, this article resets the tone as one of continued racial divisions based on both birth location and heritage.

Or have I completely missed the point?

In the Nat Geo “Black and White” essay Alicia Martin, a statistical geneticist is referenced as stating that the traits of fraternal twins that emerge in each child depends on numerous variables, including “where the parents’ ancestors are from and complex pigment genetics.” As this article does not directly address where the twins’ maternal ancestors are from, the reader of the article is left with the assumption that ‘English-born’ relates to an unending line of similarly born ancestors who will be categorised as white and therefore quintessentially British.

Afua Hirsch has an essay in the same issue that continues the analysis on what it means to be British – Hirsch investigated this concept in her recent book: Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging. Hirsch notes that, “Britishness, as an identity, is in crisis. It is still linked in the imagination of people of all races to the concept of whiteness.”

Nat Geo may have had good intentions, but from my reading of this issue they have faltered and failed on the first steps to explore race and diversity in America. I know that many people have lauded the publication of this issue as a wonderful event, yet I still see it as a P.R. exercise to excuse a back catalogue of discriminatory reporting, and to feed the American white supremacist’s and far-right’s angst about them again becoming a minority in the country they invaded: “In two years, for the first time in U.S. history, less than half the children in the nation will be white.” (From the editorial by Susan Goldberg).

National Geographic, you cannot correct past mistakes by perpetuating them.

Maybe Marcia and Millie should be left to define themselves in line with the Nat Geo’s hashtag: #IDefineMe

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

Black bodies and the white gaze in 2018

Black bodies and the white gaze in 2018.

A personal insight into the destructive societal and political dichotomy of Blackness and Whiteness.

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Understanding the social structures of Blackness and whiteness in the 21st century is a mission in a time of crisis. It is important because the human body is a metaphor of social relationships; the body has symbolic significance, and the stereotypes that currently exist must be challenged because specific cultural representations dictate how bodies that exist in either Blackness or whiteness are treated, that is either by social inclusion or social exclusion and marginalisation.

WEB Du Bois questioned, ‘What on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it?’ But it’s not whiteness that Black people desire, it’s the treatment of humanity and equality in society that is constantly sought. This inequality in social and political contexts is part of the legacy from the times of slavery and genocide, world wars and the European imperial incursions into foreign lands.

Whiteness, which is a global minority, invented its own supremacy as a means of positioning white nations as a dominant force in the world. Du Bois posited that the imperial consciousness came to equate whiteness with ‘the ownership of the world for ever and ever.’

The cult of Whiteness is arrogance used by white supremacists to offer its members security in a turmoil filled environment, and to replace global human rights and democracy;  it is a foundation stone in the origins of totalitarianism. This social Darwinism continues to seek to expel the Black body from public spaces by organised violence and / or controls that pacify the disaffected.

In the 21st century, this destructive logic of lawless violence has corrupted both public and private morality in the heavily racialised war on the Black body. This assault on the Black body presumes a sub-human ‘other’ who must be systematically destroyed and eliminated at every opportunity – and it has licensed the use of torture and extrajudicial execution, even against a country’s own citizens if they are ‘living while Black’.

This racism must be eradicated by the reversal of the European imperial imagining of people into master and slave dichotomies that first arose during the invasions of Asia, Africa, America and Australia; this will mean a new division of land, food and raw materials amongst all peoples for global and national progress and prosperity.

The cult of Whiteness resists equality because it is fragile and afraid of the decay of individual identity and collective history of European countries that existed before Imperialism and invasion. Whiteness has been incorrectly inscribed as a historical signifier of humanity.

Humanity is not a narrow spectrum of society, humanity is common and cosmopolitan. Blackness was historically pathologised by imperialism, slavery, colonisation and repeated negative media representations. When Blackness is seen as ‘other’ or deviant it creates reinforced disparity along racial lines.

This error has to be faced and corrected. Black people live this dichotomy every day.

James Baldwin, in 1962, said “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” It is therefore necessary to look at the social and political structures and constructions of Blackness and Whiteness.

In an attempt to understand the framework of the violence perpetuated on the Black body I am using my Black privilege to view this subject. I have double- sometimes triple-consciousness as a Black woman in a predominantly white society – this is my privilege, and my skill set to understand the interactions between Blackness and Whiteness. As Lili Loofbourow says,“The further you move away from white cis masculinity the more points of view you have to juggle.”

The objectivisation of the Black body means the simultaneous subjectification of the white body. The surveyor of the Black body by default becomes the white cis man.  By objectification the person who takes on the role as subjectifier does not engage in any exchange or communication with the object class of people – in this case the Black person, the Black body.

Without communication the objectified person is designated mute, they have no voice, and thereafter no subject position in society.  This is because social relations are relations between subjects – between agents of action, speech and communication; the roles are reciprocal. Without communication there is only domination and absence from one another.

With limited or single direction communication Black lives are framed by the white imagination. And because the white imagination cannot be contained, Black people in the 21st century are dying in numbers that match the number of Black deaths in the times of lynching – the only difference today is that instead of a rope, Black people are being killed by guns, prisons, structural and institutional discrimination that are mainly controlled by white sections of society. As Claudia Rankine, writes in ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’: Because white men can’t police their imagination, black men are dying.

The white imagination uses negative thoughts about Blackness to disrupt attention from everyday racial inequalities by symbolising Black people as undesirably culturally different.

Whiteness has become a dangerous cult, a religious cult even. This religious association with whiteness started over a century ago during the economic and social uncertainty that preceded the violence of the Great War of 1914. Now in the 21st century, the incumbent President of the United States is using this combination of the cult of whiteness and religious fervour to exercise perceived racial supremacy over all the citizens of America and the world.

In America and Europe, particularly in the UK, the whiteness cult, the Anglo-centric world view, is evidenced in the historical legacies that started in imperialism, colonialism, slavery, and segregation, and today continues in the forms of ghettoisation, mass incarceration, unfettered extrajudicial executions by the police force, and militarised border controls. Historically, Black people have not been paid appropriate human attention by the white gaze, or the snap judgement of the white glance. The white glance is a quick diagnosis – at speed – which does not analyse individually, but goes on learnt intuition that is based on historical inaccuracies. It’s a ‘point and shoot’ response rather than an ‘investigate and discover’ response.

This ‘point and classify’ response to Black people is the result of white people remaining focused on perpetuating continual racial violence on Black people by incorrectly centring Blackness as undesirable, low status, criminal, dangerous, and inhuman while white bodies are generally classified – by white people  – as worthy, interesting, valuable and human.

It is my Black privilege to debunk these false Imperialist theories and properly identify my Blackness as something to be admired, and outlined so other people will see it as well. As Lili Loofbourow states, “Once you point it out, we’ll never miss it again.” The recent Black Panther film has added to the global celebration of Blackness.

We still have to inhabit hope that this separatist situation of Blackness and whiteness will change. That does not mean naively denying reality, Rebecca Solnit, in her book ‘Hope in the Dark’, posits that,  “Authentic hope requires clarity and imagination.” And she continues to say, “Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists.”

We have to do something, to take some action because hope is a belief that actions have meaning and that what we do matters. As Angie Thomas says, from The Hate U Give (THUG), empathy is more powerful than sympathy.

This blog post education is so that people understand the social and political structures of racism, not so that they feel ‘sorry’ for a past event, but that they will understand the ingrained inequality, then effect change.

As Reni Eddo-Lodge says in her book, ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’, “Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent.”

Will you be a part of the change? This is your time, this is your opportunity to speak, to act, to change the system. Image the situation conjured up by the following rhetorical question used by Barack Obama, among others, ‘Can I face myself when in 20 years time my child will say to me, wait a minute, you knew this was a problem and you didn’t do anything about it?’

I am using my Blackness, my resilience, and my revolutionary spirit to continue the resistance. I am facing this error of social inequalities head on, and I will continue to write and speak about this situation to effect change and the erasure of the existing societal and political dichotomies of Blackness and Whiteness.

What will you do? I ask this because, sadly, racism is a contemporary issue.

© Marjorie H Morgan 2018

 

Legal Ghosts

the_terminal legal ghostsIn the previous blog I shared some thoughts, and facts on the situation facing British people who have been categorised as having ‘no status’. I mentioned that many older British people with Caribbeans backgrounds have been affected by this, but they’re not the only ones.

Younger people are also affected – depending on their date of birth and sometimes the relationship of their parents – I mean if the parents were married or not at the time of the child’s birth, and also the parents’ nationality at the time of the child’s birth.

Take for example the London middleweight boxing champion 29 year old Kelvin Bilal Fawaz. Fawaz has boxed and won matches for England six times and spent more than half of his life in this country.

He was head-hunted by Team GB for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, but he was unable to join the British Olympic sport endeavour on these occasions because he didn’t have a valid passport, and he has had numerous applications for a British passport rejected by the Home Office for more than a decade.

His first application for asylum, when he was eighteen, took over four years before he even received a response from the Home Office. More on that and Bilal Fawaz in a moment …

I also want to have a look at the case of Cynsha Best. She’s 31, born in Hammersmith and she’s lived in London all her life. You’d think that makes her British, but not so according to the Home Office and the changes in immigration laws.

Well, five generations of Cynsha Best’s family are British, yet when she went to register her impending marriage early in 2017, she was detailed by the Home Office and told she’s not a British citizen and that she had no right to stay in the country and that she should leave or she would be deported. Not exactly what you expect when you are planning a wedding, but that was just the start of her living nightmare. I’ll come back to Cynsha Best in a little while.

Right, now let’s go back to the case of  Bilal Fawaz, also known as Kelvin Bilal Fawaz.

Fawaz had travelled to the UK from Nigeria with his uncle when he was a teenager – he’d been told he was going to meet his father who was apparently in London, this was after he’d been raised by relatives in Nigeria for six years following the death of his mother.

Unfortunately, he was abandoned by his uncle and exploited for a couple of years where he was locked in a house and forced to work for the family he was left with.

This appears to be a straightforward case of human trafficking – when a person is forced to travel on false documents and then made to work against their will. 

Anyway, eventually Bilal Fawaz escaped from the place he was being held against his will and he was then taken into the care of Social Services – during the time he was in the care of Social Services Fawaz recalls that he mixed with the wrong crowd, and got into trouble with the law for the possession of cannabis and graffiti offences – then he discovered his skill at boxing, and he turned his life around and focused on making his new home country proud. He rose to the top of his profession as  an amateur boxer to such a degree that the boxing promotor Frank Warren offered Fawaz a three year contact worth £240,000 but he was unable to accept it because he doesn’t have a work permit – you see, the Home Office has refused to issue one to him.

This apparently great opportunity arose for this young man, but he couldn’t take it because if someone works in the UK without a valid work permit or citizenship they can be imprisoned – so, as mentioned in the last podcast –  he is another person in limbo: he can’t work even when he has  the skills and lucrative offers of work.

The Home Office has also attempted to deport Bilal Fawaz to Nigeria, but the Nigerian High Commission have refused to provide him with travel documents because they claim he’s not a Nigerian citizen, despite being born there. Fawaz’s mother – who  – as I mentioned earlier – died in Nigeria when Fawaz was eight – was from Benin, and his father was from Lebanon. This means that Kelvin Bilal Fawaz is effectively stateless – that means no country recognises him as a national citizen: he’s what’s known as one of many “legal ghosts”.

So, late last year, 2017, on the 29th November, Bilal Fawaz was training at his gym in Harlesden when he was snatched by undercover Home Office officials and held in a Tinsley House Immigration Centre – a detention and removal centre at Gatwick airport – he was held there for 34 days. He was only released following a public petition that collected over 115,000  signatures and appealed to the Home Office on his behalf.

He has now been released on bail from that Immigration Centre – sounds like prison conditions, doesn’t it? Anyway, he is yet still unable to work despite being back in the wider community.

For over 15 years Bilal Fawaz has been existing in a state of limbo.

Several unsuccessful appeals for British citizenship have been made to the Home Office on his behalf by England Boxing and John McDonnell, the MP for his constituency – Hayes and Harlington.

Bilal Fawaz, the no. 3 middleweight boxer in England, is seeking a judicial review of his case – as I mentioned in the previous podcast recent figures have shown that the Ombudsman has upheld 75% of complaints against the Home Office decisions. So, there is a fighting chance (forgive the pun!) that he will get his application for citizenship reviewed and possibly accepted – granting him a nationality, and a confirmed home, at last.

He was seen as good enough to compete and win titles for England against countries like Germany, Ireland and Nigeria, so it follows that he should be considered good enough to be classed as a citizen of the country that he’s represented so many times.

This reminds me of the case of Zola Budd, the South African runner, who had her citizenship application fast-tracked so that she could represent England in the 1984 Olympics. The outcome was different, of course.

17 year old Zola Budd registered as a British citizen on the 6th April 1984 – on the strength of the fact that her grandfather was British, then she moved to Guildford and soon after received her passport allowing her to run in the Los Angeles Olympics that summer.

Sounds improbable, but it’s a fact. Recently released files held in the National Archives, reveal the government row that arose over this case based on the fear that other immigration enquiries would be made from people with similar familial backgrounds and connections.

As you can see, the difference in treatment of these two Olympic standard athletes is stark.

In 1984 the Home Office justified their ‘special treatment’ of Zola Budd when they stated that her ’talent’ made her particular case a priority. Six time boxing champion Bilal Fawaz has not been viewed with the same care and sensitivity.

So, Budd competed for Great Britain in 1984 then reverted to her South African nationality to compete in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics after South Africa was re-admitted to international competition following a referendum vote to end apartheid and hold a fair and free national election – resulting in the landmark nomination of Nelson Mandela as the first Black South African President.

Bilal Fawaz has no other country or nationality to revert to. His home is London, England. He is not recognised anywhere else in the world. He has ‘no status’ anywhere else – this is his home, he has lived here for over half of his life and has represented the country on an international stage.

One’s nationality is such a minefield of emotions and shifting laws. There seems to be an endless list of people whose lives are devastatingly affected by citizenship and border regulations.

Right, now back to Cynsha Best who I mentioned at the start of this podcast. When Cynsha Best was born, her Barbadian and Guyanese parents were not registered as British, despite migrating to Britain under the British resettlement scheme that existed between 1955 and 1966 – in fact, around 27,000 Barbadians travelled from the Caribbean to Britain under this scheme. Her mother has Indefinite Leave to Remain in Britain and since her birth her father has been registered as a British citizen. However, Cynsha Best’s nationality status did not change when her father was naturalised as British.

The news that she wan’t British was obviously a shock and an unpleasant surprise to Cynsha Best.

This is because a change in the law meant that even though her migrant grandparents, who travelled to England in 1956, even though they were British citizens, the law had changed to specify that after 1983, even if you are born in the UK to British grandparents, you were not automatically British.

Cynsha Best fell in this grey area. So, after being detained and answering a few questions in the Home Office building in Croydon, she was told she wasn’t British – as she’d believed herself to be all her life – she was told that she was Barbadian and also that she was an illegal immigrant. Remember, she hadn’t migrated from anywhere, she was born in  Hammersmith and had lived in London her entire life. Strangely, all her siblings were still classified as British citizens, and her two children are British citizens – it’s just Cynsha Best who was identified as the only illegal immigrant in her family, and the Home Office were ready to detain her and immediately deport her to Barbados – in fact they only let her leave the Croydon office when she was initially detained and questioned because she became distressed and expressed safety concerns for her two young sons who had to be collected after school that day. At that interview she was told to leave the country voluntarily or apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain at a cost of £2,993 (without the extra addition of solicitor’s fees).

So, early in 2017 the Home Office told Cynsha Best that they would give her £2,000 each for her and both of her children (who are both British citizens remember) to leave the country voluntarily. According to the Home Office records she didn’t exist as a British citizen and therefore would have to be removed from what she has – for her 31 years of life – known as her home, family and country.

Fortunately, after nearly a year of uncertainty and turmoil, the Home Office granted Cynsha Best British citizenship. This was after yet another public campaign, and a collection of nearly 60,000 signatures that raised awareness of the trauma and distress that Cynsha Best and her family had to go through.

She was then told that the next step was to take the citizenship test – at the cost of £1,282.

Best’s MP, Sarah Jones, who lobbied the Home Office on her constituent’s behalf, stated last year – in 2017- that she was concerned that “this is not uncommon – only today another constituent has come to me who has been in the UK since she was 2 in 1961 and has just been told that she has no right to live here. This is not the commonsense, fair and managed immigration system we need.”

I agree with MP Sarah Jones’ assessment.

Kelvin Bilal Fawaz and Cynsha Best are just a couple of cases that have had some media coverage, others have not been as fortunate, despite being in the same or similar situations. Many British citizens have effectively been reclassified as illegal immigrants – because they are ‘lost’ in the system, and summarily deported to countries where they have little or no connections.

Every similar case shocks me as much as the first one that I uncovered. People are having their lives turned upside down and are not often given the chance to appeal or have their case humanely considered before they are detained and then deported from their homes.

These are individual people, like you or me, with family networks and cultural histories linked to their English roots and communities. They’re being torn from their homes and ejected from the only countries or settled environments that they’ve ever know.

I think it’s the responsibility of every British citizen to ensure that justice is done for each and every member of society. So, I’m asking you to share this information and help those in your local communities who may be inadvertently affected.

We all have to seek justice and equality of access and outcomes – it matters. These people and their lives matter.

So, once again I’m seriously asking you to reach out and make sure those you know are protected. Please, do it. Don’t just think about it. Do something to help someone – it could be you that needs help tomorrow.

On that sombre note, I’m going to end this part two of the ‘no status’ blog posts. I hope the information that I’ve shared has been useful to you, and that it’ll help to save someone you know or hear about from the potential distress and trauma of unwelcome Home Office intervention in their lives.

No Status

Settled statusYou 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.