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Windrush: MPs join calls for extension of gov't scheme

SUPPORT: David Lammy is one of the MPs backing the Movement for Justice campaign

A CAMPAIGN calling for the government’s Windrush scheme to be extended to descendants of Caribbean-born British citizens was launched in parliament yesterday evening.

A room full of supporters from around the UK, including women detained in Yarl’s Wood, their families, men of Caribbean heritage who had been detained, MPs and lawyers representing people fighting immigration cases came together to begin mobilising against the government’s “hostile environment” policies.

MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, one of the leading voices in the movement for justice for the Windrush Generation gave an impassioned speech on the importance of the campaign and the continued efforts to resolve the immigration issues members of the Windrush Generation and their families are facing.

The newly elected MP for Lewisham East, Janet Daby, is yet to make her maiden speech in the House of Commons but she’s already making an impact within the parliamentary walls.

Daby, herself a “daughter of Windrush parents” facilitated the campaign launch, which is being led by Movement for Justice.

The campaign is urging the government to extend the scheme set up to resolve immigration issues of members of the Windrush Generation and sees the fees for citizenship applications waived to be extended to cover descendants of those who would be eligible under the scheme.

At present the government’s specialist Windrush taskforce cannot be used by those who came over as adults after 1973, even if they have lived in the UK for decades and their parents would fit the Windrush criteria.

Speaking at the launch, Daby, whose parents are from Guyana, said: “It’s actually an honour to host this event.”

She also pledged to do what she could to continue to support the campaign and said she would speak with the key people involved.

MP Eleanor Smith, who was elected in Enoch Powell’s former seat, Wolverhampton South West, also attended the campaign launch and spoke briefly.

Smith said: “We were a little bit slow off the mark but we’re not now.”

She recounted the hoops her granddaughter, a British citizen, was required to go in order to obtain a passport. Officials requested information on her grandparents and great grandparents during the application process.

Smith emphasised the need to keep pushing forward with the campaign. She said: “I’m like a dog with a bone I don’t let go,” and urged the supporters in the room to not let go either.

Several women who have lived in the UK for more than 10 years, have British children and grandchildren but face deportation and have been detained in Yarl’s Wood also gave emotional testimonies.

One woman, who was brought to tears as she shared her experience with the room, spoke of how she had been supported by a fellow Yarl’s Wood detainee during her time in the immigration detention centre.

She described her roughly four months in the detention centre as “inhumane” and said “at one point I was going to take my own life”.

Another woman called Jennifer, who also broke down in tears, told the room how the Home Office had told her she did not have sufficient family ties to be granted the right to remain in the UK. Jennifer was detained in Yarl’s Wood for seven weeks.

She said the experience was “really devastating for my grandkids and my daughter”.

Karen Doyle, national organiser, Movement for Justice, highlighted the need to raise funds for the campaign. A crowdfunding page has been set up to fundraise for the cause.

Lawyers from a number of firms are working pro bono on the cases of Yvonne Smith and Yvonne Williams – two Jamaican grandmothers who have been detained in Yarl’s Wood and are continuing to fight for their right to stay in the UK despite having extensive family ties – something the Home Office refutes – and having lived in Britain for almost 20 years.

Williams, who has four siblings who are all British citizens, seven British grandchildren and no family left in Jamaica, said: “It is very hard, very hard.

“They [the Home Office] keep saying I have no family ties.”

More information on the campaign can be found here.

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