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“It’s up to us to protect the Windrush Generation”

SUPPORT: The Brown family outside Windrush Square in Brixton, south London

A WARWICKSHIRE woman whose mother’s visa was previously refused despite living and working in the UK for 15 years, is highlighting the importance of the Windrush Generation descendants.

Monica Brown alongside her siblings campaigned for the rights of their mother Iciline Brown who moved to the UK in the mid 50s and was a part of the Windrush Generation.

Iciline, a former trainee nurse, moved to the UK in 1957 following her husband, Gersham’s move in 1955. The couple got married in 1958 and had four children - Freddie, Noel, Phillip and Monica. “My family came to England expecting to improve themselves,” says Monica. “My mum came to train as a nurse and she started her training at Warwick Hospital in Leamington Spa. My dad worked full time and also went to college and got his qualifications in civil engineering.”

During their time in the UK, the family moved back to Jamaica for a year in 1963 before returning to Leamington Spa in 1964. The couple eventually decided to return to Jamaica as Monica’s father Gersham was insistent that his children ‘ know their culture’ and moved back to Jamaica in 1970, where their children soon followed and lived there from 1972. Monica and her siblings returned to the UK between 1975 -2002.

UNION: Gersham and Iciline Brown on their wedding day in 1958

Despite living and working in the UK prior to returning to Jamaica for several decades, Iciline has been struggling to regain her status as a British citizen, due to misleading information regarding her status since landing on British soil all those years ago.

“Since my mum moved back to Jamaica she had been coming back to the UK on a pretty regular basis but had her visa declined twice in 2017,” recalls Monica.

“As a result, I spoke to lawyers and my understanding at the time was that if she found her British passport it would simply be a matter of renewing it. However, she found documentation with the passport number, issue date and all of that around the start of 2018.

"We made contact with the passport office, the Home Office, special taskforce and we recorded an interview with a senior Home Office case worker and was informed that the blue passport that she had made her a British subject, a citizen of the UK and Overseas Colonies and that she was never a British citizen."

The British passport Iciline was issued with was six days before Jamaica became independent in 1962. During her recorded conversation with a Home Office worker, Monica was made aware that at that point, Iciline became Jamaican - even though she was holding a British passport.

"The passport many of the Windrush Generation came on - that dark blue document they held so tightly - many like my mother assumed that it made them a British citizen. My understanding is that they never were because the nationality act came later and they were UK overseas subjects never British citizens. It was a document that made her think she had the equal rights of a British citizen. I just wonder how many of our people found themselves in that particular situation."

According to Monica, at no point did Iciline renounce her British citizenship, making the ordeal particularly stressful for the family who feared for their mother’s health. “All my mother’s family is here in the UK; all of her children and grandchildren are here.

"I speak to my mother everyday and my family's job has been to inform her of what’s going on and manage her emotions through this so that she stays well, steady and also so she knows that we're taking the heat here and protecting her and informing her.”

Since Iciline’s citizenship issues have come to light, the Brown family have mobilised and campaigned intensely to protect their mother. From contacting their local MP’s, to filming a video raising awareness of their mother’s crisis in Brixton Windrush Square, Monica and her siblings have done everything they can to get justice and results for their mother - and it seems to be working.

PICTURED: Iciline Brown in her youth (left) and on her 81st birthday (right)

“So the current state of play is that she now has a two-year visa and I will be going to Jamaica later on this year to bring her back to the UK. The other members of my team are studying the compensation scheme; getting information on it and understanding what it means.

“It appears at first look that she is not entitled to a British passport but she is entitled to indefinite leave to remain. We recently received an email from the UK Visas and Immigration, Vulnerable Persons Team inviting us to progess the application for Indefinite Leave to Remain/ British Citizenship.

“This positive result is partially due to the coverage we received. In fact, one day after a newspaper published the first story, the Home Office rescinded its decision and I got a call from the British High Commissioner in Jamaica requesting a meeting with me.”

Monica and her family are using their mother’s story to emphasise the importance of the family and young people’s role in assisting the Windrush Generation through this difficult time.

“The whole purpose of our video wasn’t to solely focus attention on our story – which is not the worst out there - but to say to our people many of whom are passive, fearful and feeling powerless, that this is our story, this is what we did, here are some strategies. This is what you can do to.

“Many of our people have signed NDA’s in order to get money quickly and here they are, so anxious and keen that they don’t get the advice they need out of desperation and they don’t understand the ramifications of signing an NDA,” she adds. “It’s back to being aware and being an active citizen and using the free resources to get advice and take the best course of action for our elders.

“In 10 years time, the original Windrush Generation will be gone and so I think that says more about the children of the Windrush Generation then the elders themselves.”

As descendants of the Windrush Generation, Monica believes they "need to take the heat”.

"We need to be standing up and not be passive citizens. The Black Cultural Archives have been great having legal clinics throughout the summer and there are other resources out there. But the problem is if we are passive and fearful we relinquish our power. And we need to speak to our local representatives, MPs plus more.

“Why aren’t we using the process that exists? That’s what my family did. We exerted pressure then used the press. Every community has a local paper and we need to see these stories across the country.

“This turned out better for my family because we worked together - there was a united front. We had to redirect our rage so it was constructive and we all had to take things on. But unless we work together as a team and a community, there will not be a good result.”

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