The Commonwealth is under pressure to protect its citizens from discrimination and unfair treatment in the UK, as the Home Office seeks to deport those who unofficially emigrated into the country almost half a century ago
The Commonwealth is under pressure to protect its citizens from discrimination and unfair treatment in the UK, as the Home Office seeks to deport those who unofficially emigrated into the country almost half a century ago.
Undocumented Commonwealth citizens in the UK have been struggling to protect their livelihoods since Theresa May announced the introduction of a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants in 2012, according to The Guardian.
Many of these Commonwealth citizens arrived in the UK as children many decades ago as their parents took on job opportunities.
They are a largely invisible group who have spent their lives in the UK believing they are British, but do not have the necessary papers to prove their right to remain in the country.
As a result of their unrecognised and unauthorised existence in the UK, they have lost jobs and been refused employment, emergency housing, benefits, and even NHS care.
In some extreme cases, as reported by The Guardian, people have been sent to immigration removal centres and prepared for deportation to their “home” country, which most have not visited since they left as children.
A few last-minute legal interventions have prevented removals for some and media coverage has ensured residency permits were granted instead.
To avoid deportation, some individuals have opted to live beneath the radar of the Home Office, which is accused of unfair and cruel treatment.
In many cases, Commonwealth citizens were drawn to emigrate to the UK over half a century ago as part of a recruitment appeal for workers in Britain.
These workers and their children have lived, worked, studied, paid taxes and fully integrated into the community, and most are shocked to discover they are not recognised as British citizens but classed as illegal immigrants.
Immigrants from countries such as Barbados, once it became independent in 1966, were required to naturalise if they wanted to remain living in the UK, but many were not aware of this.
Some Commonwealth citizens have a legal right to stay in the UK because the 1971 Immigration Act gives those already settled in Britain indefinite leave to remain.
It can be a struggle, however, to gather enough documents to prove arrival dates before the cut-off point and subsequent settled status, and to access legal aid.
Jamaican High Commissioner Seth George Ramocan believes a lot of people have been affected by the difficult situation.
Quoted in The Guardian, he said: “We don’t know how many there are, primarily because they are unaware of their status, or lack of it.
“Most believe that they are OK, that they are British.
“People are thrown into crisis when they find out.
“When you are in this situation you cannot get a job, healthcare, a place to live – it locks you out of the system.”