Archway care worker: ‘My battle to stay after 50 years in UK’
Judy Griffith, who arrived from Barbados in 1963, was threatened with eviction as she fought red tape
09 March, 2018 — By Emily Finch
Judy Griffith: ‘I’ve always had a right to be here’
A HOSPITAL care worker was threatened with eviction by the Town Hall while battling to remain in the country where she has lived for more than 50 years, we can reveal this week.
Judy Griffith, 63, from Archway, should have been planning her retirement but instead had to battle red tape as immigration rules for Commonwealth citizens tightened.
Although Ms Griffith was legally allowed to live and work in Britain, she found herself unable to start a new job for four years after her Barbadian passport with a “right to remain” sticker was stolen.
She said: “The council knew I was struggling, but they are pressuring me and harassing me. You’d think they’d give me some leeway. They took me to court and tried to evict me and my daughter just before Christmas.”
Ms Griffith came from Barbados to Bedfordshire in 1963 when she was just nine years old, joining her parents who had answered an advert for bus drivers during a post-war drive for workers.
She has spent the past 50 years paying tax working at a variety of jobs from care worker to traffic warden for the Met Police and Camden Council.
But she found herself plunged into a bureaucratic nightmare when applying for work at the Jobcentre in King’s Cross four years ago, her plight revealing a wider problem faced by those who moved here from Commonwealth countries.
She said: “The woman at the Jobcentre said: ‘You’re an illegal immigrant.’ But me and my family were brought to this country from the Commonwealth after the war to rebuild it. My parents were invited here and I’ve always had a right to be here.”
She added: “Many black women have mashed their bodies for this country and we have had no thanks. Before mechanic hoists I used to lift hundreds of people twice as heavy as me out of beds as a carer.”
Unable to afford legal costs running into the thousands and a hefty £800 fee for a residence permit and unable to start a new job without one, Ms Griffith found herself in an impossible “Catch-22” situation.
The term was used by her MP, Jeremy Corbyn, when citing her case in a letter to the government two years ago as he tried to help her. The Islington North MP was unable to resolve her case and Miss Griffith started to fear losing her flat rented from the council.
She said: “If you put a person in a position where they cannot obtain money, how can you ask them to pay almost £1,000? It’s extortion. It’s humiliating and bullying.
“I want people to know how serious this is. If you can’t have that resident permit, you can’t even bank. You can’t work and you have no access to public services. How are you supposed to live?”
Ms Griffith was offered three jobs through the Jobcentre but was unable to start work without the residency permit. When her mother died two years ago in Barbados, she could not leave Britain and attend the funeral as she feared she would not be able to return.
“This process has impacted my social life, health and work. I didn’t have diabetes before this. I feared I could be deported at any minute,” she said.
After spending years unearthing documents – she needed to account for every year she’s been in Britain – and borrowing money, Ms Griffith finally received her residency permit last week with the help of Camden Community Law Centre.
“I don’t see this as a victory because I’ve always had a right to be here,” she said.
Camden Community Law Centre supervisor Annie Campbell, who helped Ms Griffith, said she had seen 50 similar cases in the past few years since the tightening of immigration laws in 2012.
“It’s an awful thing to happen to these people who have been here 50 or 60 years,” she said.
“They are legally entitled to be here, but don’t have paperwork going back every year they’ve been here. No consideration is given by the government to those who were brought here as children and now there’s no legal aid to help these people.”
An Islington Council spokesman said: “We try very hard to avoid evicting any council tenants in rent arrears. We offer help, advice and support to tenants who are struggling to pay their rent and are at risk of falling into arrears, or are already in debt, and will only consider eviction in exceptional circumstances.
“In this case, we sympathise with Ms Griffith’s difficult situation regarding her immigration status, which we do not have any influence over.
“We have proactively spoken to and met Ms Griffith on many occasions over the last six years, including referring her to Islington Law Centre for support and advice with her finances.
“Her rent arrears date back to 2010 and we have agreed a manageable plan with Ms Griffith to both repay the arrears and stay in her home.”