IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

After 8-year struggle, Windrush gran is told: ‘You can stay’

A ‘disgrace’ that woman who arrived here as a teenager in 1974 had to fight for ‘what should be hers by right’, says MP Corbyn

08 June, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Marilyn Edwards: ‘I had to do fingerprints at Home Office. I felt like a criminal’

A WINDRUSH-generation grandmother has finally been cleared to stay in the country after a near-decade-long battle.

Marilyn Edwards, 61, from Holloway, migrated to Britain from Jamaica as a teenager to join her mother in 1974. But since 2010 she has been trying to prove her immigration status after her passport was destroyed in a house fire in Tufnell Park Road three decades ago, her solicitor Roopa Tanna said.

Ms Edwards was finally told this week that she now has indefinite leave to remain.

Labour leader and Islington North MP ­Jeremy Corbyn said it was a “disgrace” she had to fight for “what should be hers by right”.

Ms Tanna, an immigration solicitor at Islington Law Centre who took on Ms Edwards’ case in 2013, said: “It started to go wrong for her with her benefits as she did not have proof of her immigration status.

“Then we tried quite a lot to get evidence for her but, as you can imagine, which is what a lot of the Windrush generation have faced, it is hard to find evidence going back all those years.”

She added: “We kept saying to the Home Office at the time: ‘If she came to be with her mum, she would have got indefinite leave.’ But they point-blank refused. They said they had no records relating to her at all.”

To protect Ms Edwards and enable her to claim benefits, Ms Tanna applied for limited leave to remain, which guaranteed her two-and-a-half years.

Ms Edwards has been living and caring for her 88-year-old mother in Holloway, and using the Solidarity Centre in Seven Sisters Road to help get by with food and drink.

Ms Edwards migrated to Britain from Jamaica as a teenager to join her mother in 1974

But when the immigration scandal hit the headlines earlier this year, she found she could apply under the Windrush policy. It also came to light that her landing card would have been destroyed by the Home Office.

Ms Edwards, a mother-of-three and grandmother-of-four, had told the Tribune during her legal fight: “I feel really trapped and I’m fed up of all of this. They are putting pressure on me and I feel like I’m trash.

“I feel angry and when I had to do the fingerprints at the Home Office, I felt like a criminal.”

Ms Tanna said that, since the government introduced “hostile environment” immigration policies, she had come across about 12 similar Windrush cases from 2012, many unable to claim legal aid after it was cut in 2013. Her colleagues had also dealt with many others.

She said: “It was very frustrating as the people involved were absolutely devastated. It completely destroyed them because some people lost jobs, other people lost homes, but even if their loss wasn’t that big, you can’t underestimate the loss of a sense of identity for a person.

“The lack of legal aid has been a huge factor in these problems because they couldn’t get lawyers to help them as there was no legal aid.”

Jeremy Corbyn: ‘It’s a disgrace that she’s had to fight for almost a decade for what should be hers by right’

Mr Corbyn has been involved in Ms Edwards’ case, writing to the Home Office on her behalf demanding action.

He said: “I’m delighted Marilyn has been awarded indefinite leave to remain, but it’s a disgrace that she’s had to fight for almost a decade for what should be hers by right.

“As for many others of the Windrush generation, the government’s cruel ‘hostile environment’ policy has caused unforgivable and unnecessary anguish.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Office has been clear that we want to swiftly put right the wrongs that have been done to the Windrush generation and are committed to supporting those involved through the process.

“A new Windrush Scheme came into effect last month, which makes it easier for those concerned to access support and to understand what is on offer.

“It will ensure that people can obtain the documents to confirm their status and, in appropriate cases, be able to obtain British citizenship free of charge.

“Ms Edwards has been in contact with the taskforce and was granted indefinite leave to remain on June 1.”

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