As A Windrush Victim, No Amount Of Compensation Can Make Up For 35 Years Of Lost Time

I never thought that I was anything other than British. How do you compensate me for missed opportunities with my kids? Or not being there for my dying mother?

Source: The Huffington Post Website 15/10/2018 09:24 BST | Updated 15/10/2018 17:45 BST Richard Black
PA Wire/PA Images

Arriving in London as a child in the 1960s, I was totally surprised by the size of the homes and how cold it was. It was strange to see people that were different in colour than what I had been accustomed to, but then I stopped giving it much thought.

When I was finally enrolled in school it was the happiest day my life. It was an opportunity to make new friends. At that time, the school had a large immigrant population, so I did not feel left out and the teachers were very friendly and made us feel welcome.

For my mum it was a different story, she was afraid of going out even to work because of the constant abuse that she suffered at the time. My mother was white-passing mixed-race, so she would be constantly looked at. She suffered verbal abuse from white people and then there were the physical attacks on people of colour, so it meant that she would no longer go out to the shops.

I would eat the scraps that she brought home from the kitchens that she serviced and we would wait until my brother would come home for us to go and buy food.

I can’t remember ever being scared although I did encounter bullying. But I had a different approach, I tackled it head on. I was not going to allow anyone to inject fear into me, and I was well-liked at school with a lot of friends who would stick up for me.

My school experiences were mixed, but mainly positive, on the other hand it tore me apart to see and hear my mother speak about what she had to face almost on a daily basis.

Living in West London in the 1960s was a mixture of different cultures, you had west Indians and the African diaspora as well, it was an extremely cosmopolitan mix.

I did not suffer from racism until I was in my teens, being called a n***** or a co** was met in my usual style of returning the compliment. I soon realised the best thing for me to do was not to try and mix but to stay with other people of colour. We would let our hair down at house parties – where I met the mother of two of my British-born children.

I never thought that I was anything other than British, yes different in colour but still British. No matter how many insults we suffered or people telling us to go back home, we still thought that we had a right to be in the UK.

I never could have imagined that decades later we could be treated in this way.

For the last 35 years, since an extended holiday to Trinidad, I’ve been locked out of the UK. My mother fell ill in 2003, and died later that year. Countless trips to the British Embassy and pleading with staff to allow me to return fell on deaf ears. Not being by her side during her illness and her subsequent passing has left me with a sense of guilt that no matter how hard I try it will not go away.

No amount of compensation can bring those moments back for me. How do you start to compensate someone for 35 years of lost opportunities?

Not being able to give comfort or to be there for my dying mother. How do you compensate me for missed opportunities with my kids, not being able to see them grow up. How much compensation will the state pay to eradicate the sense of abandonment that my kids have felt over the years?

I never thought that after arriving in the UK as a child that I would have to go through telephone interviews to see whether I still have strong ties to the UK.

I never thought that I would be fighting to retain my rights as a citizen of the UK. It feels to me like domestic abuse in its worst form – the Home Office trying to disenfranchise a whole group of people who have a legal right to be in the UK without any due process.

In my years in the UK, I cannot remember ever having spoken to a police officer, far less being charged for any form of criminality, I have never been arrested or held.

The UK’s rejection of us feels like we’ve been used and kicked to the curb.

Since being recognised as a victim of the Windrush scandal, my hopes have turned to despair. The mess was supposed to take two weeks to be resolved, yet here we are more than five months later. I feel totally betrayed.

The government has failed miserably to address the concerns of the victims in any meaningful way, some of us are still living in a state of total destitution with no access to housing, healthcare or jobs. My situation, although not as severe as others, still has left me feeling that I am a third-class citizen in a country that I grew up in and called home.

You cannot put a price on the suffering or hopelessness that I have endured over the years. On many occasions when you call the Windrush helpline you are met with civil servants who are not sympathetic, who cannot begin to understand the plight of the people they are supposed to be helping. I see no end to my suffering as a Windrush victim, I guess in that I am not alone, one can only pray that before the deaths of the Windrush generation something positive will happen and finally we will get justice.

Related article:

Windrush scandal ‘robbed me of my family and friends’ and should cost the PM her job

Source: Sky News Webpage 16:05, UK, Wednesday 25 April 2018

Leo Marius, now known as Richard Black, says he has not been able to return to the UK

Leo Marius moved from St Lucia to start a new life in London in 1960. But after his British passport expired while visiting his in-laws in Trinidad in 1983, he has not been allowed to return to the UK.

His marriage broke down, he lost contact with his two London-born daughters and he was unable to attend his mother’s funeral.

Now known as Richard Black, the 64-year-old tells Sky News’s Sandy Rashty about the Government’s treatment of the “Windrush generation”.

When I realised my passport had expired, I went to the High Commission for some clarity.

They told me the passport could not be renewed and they tried to bully me to get a St Lucian or a Trinidad and Tobago passport.

But I have never applied for another passport. I should not have to do that.

I am stranded, I am stateless. I have not seen my two daughters since I came to Trinidad.

They think I abandoned them. They were only six and two years old when I left.

I think about what I could have had with my children, about my friends and my memories.

West Indian residents arrived in Britain after the Second World War

I think about my mother, about not being there for her when she was going through her period of illness and not being able to attend her funeral. How would you feel?

I have been robbed of family, friends, proper healthcare, proper everything.

I want to come back to England. My mother is buried there and I want to come and visit her grave.

I have always felt that I was a British citizen. In the 33 years that I have been in Trinidad, I have not travelled outside the shores of Trinidad.

I feel that 33 years of my life here in Trinidad, to be honest, has not been bad. But I have been robbed of family, friends, proper healthcare. Everything I enjoyed from a child aged six.

I went to school in London. I grew up in Notting Hill.

I am saddened by what has happened to me.

I always thought I was alone in this. To understand now that a lot of people have been impacted by racist laws. I am heartbroken for West Indians. Don’t we matter? Aren’t we people too?

Why are we being singled out?

We came when England, after the World War, was on its knees.

We took all the jobs that white people did not want to take: nursing, looking after the sick, working on the buses, on the underground, conductors, bus drivers.

And now, we are no longer required. We are no longer needed, wanted, so we are just thrown out with the garbage.

I find that Theresa May and (Amber) Rudd – should do the best thing now. Leave. Resign. Stop this nonsense.

They are impugning the good character of hard working people who went to England to assist, to try and build back the country, to do what other citizens did not want to do.

And to be treated like animals and dogs?

It is obscene. There is a special place in hell for people like that.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “As the Home Secretary announced, members of the Windrush generation who arrived in the UK before 1973 and have stayed to build a life here will be eligible for free citizenship.

“The offer, which will be available to people from Commonwealth countries, not just Caribbean nationals, will extend to individuals who have no current documentation, those who already have leave to remain and want to advance their status and children of the Windrush generation.”

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