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Home at last after seven-year ordeal for Windrush victim

Islington man who lost his road sweeper job during the government’s immigration crackdown says £1m wouldn’t make the hurt go away

31 August, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Balvin Marshall has spent seven years homeless, sleeping in and out of a warehouse

BALVIN Marshall walks through his house, looking out at the overgrown garden and unfurnished living room.

With some interior work to go, the bungalow is his first real home in nearly a decade after he became a victim of the government’s Windrush immigration crackdown while working as a road sweeper in Islington.

When the Tribune met 64-year-old Mr Marshall earlier this year, he was weary, citing his faith as the strength that got him through seven years of homelessness.

This week he appeared a different man, wearing a smart shirt and new clothes he could afford since being able to claim benefits after the Home Office confirmed his residency.

“I met a man who said to me that ‘I’m so happy things are working out for you’,” said Mr Marshall, who came to London from Jamaica in 1972 aged 16.

Mr Marshall says he ‘can’t wait to sort out the garden’ at his new home

“He said ‘I can remember you when you were young, you were the sharpest dressed in Tottenham’.”

As first reported by the Tribune in 2011, Mr Marshall lost his job of almost 10 years with the Town Hall’s then cleaning contractor, Enterprise, after a visit by the UK Border Agency.

After months without income, he then lost his flat and spent the next seven years homeless, sleeping in and out of a warehouse in Tottenham or with family, unable to work or claim benefits.

The father of five grown-up children tried to prove to the Home Office that he was entitled to be in the country by providing a copy of his birth certificate and his National Insurance number; but he said he was told that was not enough. In the 1990s he had lost the passport he said had the proof of when he arrived. After the Tribune and the office of Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy raised his case, he was told by the Home Office he had the right to stay in the UK.

The Tribune’s May report on Mr Marshall’s plight

Last week, the government found itself in another embarrassing position, with home secretary Sajid Javid apologising to 18 members of the Windrush generation who may have been wrong-fully removed from the country or detained.

Although he managed to stay in the country, the seven-year ordeal has had a huge impact on Mr Marshall. His solicitor is preparing a compensation case.

“You cannot forget it. It keeps on coming back,” said Mr Marshall. “If they gave me £1million, it still would not make it go away, as it’s in my memory, my blood, my body.

It’s going to take a while to evaporate. I was angry with the government and the whole system – but people are trying to sort it out, it seems, and I think there’s a little bit of good in the system. I find it hard to trust people, I feel like they might let me down and then I start to think ‘can I trust them?’”

Three weeks ago Mr Marshall moved from shared sheltered accommodation to his council home off White Hart Lane.

He is now waiting for new carpets and furniture but said he “can’t wait” to sort his garden out.

Asked whether he’d ever imagined having a home again, he said: “I’ve been through both ends, where I think that better will come and then thinking this is going to be the same for the rest of my life. I felt like a piece of wood rotting away.

“I think for Christmas I will put up some decorations around my house. For my birthday, I’ll be quite contented having my family around me.”


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