British citizens’ face harassment, deportation, and worse


There are many Commonwealth Immigrants who thought they were British citizens who are now facing ever-increasing amounts of discrimination, exclusion, and harassment from Immigration officers . Especially in recent years, though, as anti-immigrant sentiment and stricter immigration rules have become more prominent, immigrants from commonwealth countries are now being labelled illegal and denied access to housing, health care, and more.

This year, there have been several of these instances highlighted in the media. For example, Albert Thompson, 63, moved to England from Jamaica with his mother as a teenager in the 1960s. His mother worked as a nurse, and he worked as a mechanic until he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008. Since then, he has been unable to work and has recently been met with hostility from the Home Office. In 2017, Thompson (whose real name has not been printed) was evicted from his council-owned housing when he couldn’t produce documentation proving his eligibility. Thompson was forced to sleep on the streets before receiving aid from charity St. Mungo’s.

In November, when Thompson was due to begin radiotherapy treatment, he was pulled aside by a worker at the Royal Marsden Hospital and asked to either produce a British passport or pay £54,000 up front for the service. A Royal Marsden spokesperson told the Guardian, “In line with Department of Health guidance, from 23 October 2017 the Royal Marsden is now legally required to charge non-eligible patients in advance of any treatment.”

Renford McIntyre, who also entered the UK as a teenager from Jamaica in the 1960s, lost his job in 2014 when his employers conducted routine paperwork updates (which required a passport). Since, McIntyre has been forced into homelessness and denied emergency housing and other forms of aid because he cannot provide satisfactory documentation to the Home Office. McIntyre has lived and worked in the UK for decades, and has provided proof of 35 years of contributions made to National Insurance.

Other stories include people who have been unable to attend their mothers’ funerals, unable to find employment, or deported to countries they haven’t visited in as long as 50 years. Many of these individuals grew up believing their citizenship in a commonwealth country would grant them citizenship in the UK, but public attitudes and government policies towards immigration have become more and more hostile since then.

It is no coincidence that these tragedies are surfacing now, as immigration to the UK from commonwealth countries began to increase right around the middle of the twentieth century. This was also a time when records were not electronic, documentation requirements were more relaxed, and racist attitudes were not so taboo. Immigration was generally slow until this point and has significantly increased since, with foreign born people accounting for 13.4% of the population at the last census.

There is a growing population of individuals who came to the UK from commonwealth countries years ago and are now reaching retirement age, and many must deal with the denial of goods and services they should be entitled to.

It is shameful for these individuals, who have built a life in this country and positively contributed for years and years, to be subjected to such inhumane treatment by a country that has benefited from the work of immigrants and from the exploitation of the commonwealth countries many of these immigrants come from. These tragic stories certainly send a clear message about the UK’s views towards Black immigrants and their worth.

Dominque Brodie