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Wolverhampton's Refugee and Migrant Centre and the City of Wolverhampton Council is launching The Paulette Wilson Windrush Citizenship Project, which will provide specialist advice and support to help residents gain their citizenship.
A large number of people who came from the Commonwealth to the UK after the Nationality Act 1948 and before the 1971 Immigration Act were given the right of indefinite leave to remain, including around 3,000 people who are living in Wolverhampton. However, a series of cases have come to national attention involving people, particularly from Caribbean communities, who have been long term residents of the UK but do not have documents to prove their status. As a result, they have been incorrectly identified as illegal immigrants by the Home Office and put at risk of deportation.
They include Paulette Wilson, from Wolverhampton, a former cook at the House of Commons who had come to Britain from Jamaica in 1968. Her case was raised by Wolverhampton North East MP Emma Reynolds after she was detained at Yarl's Wood Immigration Centre and threatened with deportation.
In response, the Government confirmed last month that anyone from the Windrush generation can become a British citizen, and that the Government would waive all fees for British citizenship applications.
Wolverhampton's Windrush Citizenship Project team will provide support to people who arrived in the UK from the Commonwealth between 1948 and 1971 and who may have either lost their documentation, or who were not provided with the correct paperwork in the first place.
A team of skilled immigration caseworkers from the Refugee and Migrant Centre will be on hand to support the process to apply for British citizenship.
Paulette said: "I am proud to support the Windrush Citizenship Project launched by the council and the Refugee and Migrant Centre.
"I believe that there are many people out there who feel vulnerable to the threat of deportation, loss of employment and who are not able to access healthcare due to not having proof of their rightful citizenship. They don't need to suffer in silence as advice and practical support will be offered to those who need help."
Arten Llazari, CEO of the Refugee and Migrant Centre, said: "Since 2013, we have been dealing with individuals affected by the issues of what has become known as the Windrush scandal.
"Many vulnerable citizens, mostly of Caribbean descent, were harassed and banned from working, claiming benefits and accessing healthcare they were fully entitled to.
"They arrived in the UK as British citizens, have lived and worked here nearly all their lives and yet were repeatedly threatened with deportation.
"The legality of their situation should have never been questioned and it's a consequence of a set of government policies known as the hostile environment.
"We must reach out to everyone affected, casework the problem with the Home Office and ensure that they are fully informed and assisted free of charge through the process of claiming compensation."
Councillor Roger Lawrence, Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, said: "The City of Wolverhampton Council is pleased to be working with the Refugee and Migrant Centre and taking positive and immediate steps to support our residents to gain their rightful British citizenship.
"They have worked here for decades, paying their taxes and enriching our culture and our City. They feel British in all but legal status and they should not be let down by failures within the Home Office and within the immigration system.
"I would encourage anyone from the Windrush generation who has any concerns about their status to make contact with the Refugee and Migrant Centre as soon as possible, so that their caseworkers can provide the help and support they need."
Residents of Wolverhampton who are unsure of their immigration status and need support and advice can contact The Paulette Wilson Windrush Citizenship Project team at the Refugee and Migrant Centre by calling 01902 311554 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- released: Tuesday 8 May, 2018