Windrush victims have hit out at home secretary Priti Patel after she said conflating them with criminals who are being deported was “not only misjudged and upsetting but deeply offensive”.
Glenda Caesar, 59, who lost her job as a GP administrator when the Home Office wrongly decided she had no right to work in the UK after 20 years in the NHS, said: “She hasn’t taken the time to meet with us or speak with us. How can she know what’s deeply offensive for us?”
She was reacting to comments by Patel in which she defended the deportations and turned on celebrity campaigners who evoked the Windrush scandal when opposing the policy .
Speaking to the Daily Mail, the home secretary said : “The Windrush scandal is a stain on our country’s history.
“That generation made an enormous contribution to our country and were wronged by successive governments.
“To see ill-informed Labour politicians and do-gooding celebrities attempting to conflate the victims of Windrush with these vile criminals set for deportation is not only misjudged and upsetting but deeply offensive.”
Patel said the government would “never stand in solidarity with rapists and murderers” and was “committed to removing these foreign criminals from our country” as they had violated British laws and had no right be remain in the country.
But several Windrush victims whose lives were disrupted when they were wrongly targeted by the Home Office spoke out against the deportations.
Ms Caesar, a mother-of-four from Hackney, east London, who arrived in the UK from Dominica legally in 1961 when she was three months old, told the PA news agency: “She’s never met us. She doesn’t know how we feel.”
While stating she did not condone crime, Ms Caesar said if the prisoners being deported spent their childhoods in the UK then she could understand how they would feel about being taken to a country “they don’t even know”.
She added: “Why not give a person a second chance? They have already been punished, this is a second punishment, I don’t agree with that.”
Michael Braithwaite, 68, who arrived from Barbados as a child in 1961, lost his job as a special needs teaching assistant for not having an up-to-date identity document two years ago.
The father-of-three, from Camden, north London, said: “I’ve listened to her speak and I think she has no empathy for people like me.
“I don’t know if she realises, or the people who work for her realise, who those people are on the plane. They should talk to people like me.”
Anthony Bryan, 62, who arrived in the UK as a child in 1965 on his brother’s passport, said he was “upset and angry” when he read Ms Patel’s comments.
Mr Bryan, from Edmonton, north London, was wrongly detained for a total of five weeks and was almost deported before an immigration lawyer intervened.
Mr Bryan, whose story was portrayed in the BBC drama Sitting in Limbo, said: “I was glad to see Naomi Campbell coming out and standing up for Jamaican people.”
He said if the criminals on the flight spent their childhoods in the UK then they should not be deported as they “are not Jamaica’s problem”.
“How long have some of these Jamaicans been here? They learnt all them things (crimes) here,” he said.
“I think it’s wrong, Jamaica didn’t turn them into rapists and murderers.”
Ewaldo Romeo, 65, agreed with this sentiment, saying: “If you commit a crime in this country, which you learnt in this country, why subject a country that has nothing to do with your upbringing with your problem?”
Mr Romeo arrived in England in 1959 from Antigua and was born British before his country gained independence, but he was deemed an illegal immigrant after he lost his passport in 2005.
Mr Romeo, from Edmonton, said: “It’s a farce to let them serve their sentence here and then deport them, that’s ridiculous.”
Thirteen prisoners were deported to Jamaica in a flight on Wednesday, but lawyers successfully moved to have another 23 removed from the aircraft’s passenger list, with their cases now under review.
The Home Office would not say whether any of the 36 Jamaican individuals had immediate relatives who were from the Windrush generation, or whether any had lived in the country since they were children.