What is next for Windrush victim Balvin Marshall?
‘I’ve always felt British,’ says man who lost road-sweeper job during immigration crackdown
11 May, 2018 — By Samantha Booth
Balvin Marshall, 64, will meet with Home Office officials next week, and is also in touch with Labour MP David Lammy
AS a teenage Balvin Marshall was packing up his life in Jamaica, the words of his late great-grandmother resonated in his ears.
“She used to say to me, ‘when you go to England, talk to the Queen’,” he said. “I used to think, why is she saying this to me?”
Mr Marshall arrived as a 16-year-old in 1972, joining his mother who had already moved to north London.
“I’ve always felt British, even when I was in Jamaica,” he said.
“When I was four or five years old, a ship took away my dad. The next time, a plane took away my mum, my gran and my auntie and uncle.”
As revealed by the Tribune last week, Mr Marshall, now 64, is facing a battle to prove he has a right to be in Britain after questions were raised about his immigration status.
Caught up in the government’s Windrush scandal, he lost his job as an Islington road-sweeper, and has spent the past seven years sleeping on a small space in a building used like a warehouse, or occasionally with family after he had to move out of his rented home in Tottenham, unable to work or claim benefits.
The front page of last week’s Tribune
As someone who has had various jobs since he was 19 years old, Mr Marshall said he was “terrified” when he lost his job with Enterprise, the Town Hall’s then cleaning operator in 2011 after a visit by the Border Agency as part of a crackdown on illegal immigrants.
He tried to prove to the Home Office 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 lost the passport he said had the proof of when he arrived.
After months of trying to prove his case, with no income apart from handouts, and with help from trade unions and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Mr Marshall said he felt like “giving up”.
He has largely kept himself to himself in recent years, not even seeking medical attention for a bad back which left him fearful he wouldn’t be able to walk. Sitting in front of a pile of payslips, letters and a copy of the Tribune from 2011, which first told of his plight, he said he wants answers over his pension and whether he will receive compensation if the situation is resolved.
Mr Marshall, who has never left the country since arriving in the 1970s, said: “There was a time, [I thought] if I just had the money to get on a plane and leave, I would – that’s how frustrated I was. I don’t even know what I would have found when I got to another country.”
Since speaking publicly about his plight, the Home Office has arranged an appointment to discuss his status next week.
Mr Marshall lost his job with Enterprise, the Town Hall’s then cleaning operator, in 2011 after a visit by the Border Agency as part of a crackdown on illegal immigrants
The Tribune and Mr Marshall’s family also helped to put him in touch with David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, who has hit out at the government over the Windrush scandal. He was previously in contact with Mr Marshall in 2011 and has stepped back in to help with his case now.
A spokesman for Mr Lammy said he had written to Haringey Council to help with Mr Marshall’s housing situation and plans to meet him today (Friday).
The spokesman added: “Pro bono legal advice will be provided to constituents at David’s Windrush surgery tomorrow, and once Mr Marshall is able to provide David with details of his situation, David will be able to raise his case with the Home Office Commonwealth Taskforce as a matter of urgency”.
Immigration minister Caroline Nokes told the BBC’s Daily Politics programme that the Home Office would no longer ask for four pieces of evidence for each year of residence.
For Mr Marshall, he can still remember his first day in London as if it was yesterday.
He recalled: “It was cold, and when I was coming through the West End somewhere in a car, I said to my mum, ‘why are there all these factories here?’
“But they weren’t, they were houses with smoke coming out of the chimney. In Jamaica you only see the smoke coming from factories because it’s warmer.
“I felt the cold but it didn’t affect me as I was warm on the inside. People told me to be careful and wrap myself up as I just used to wear a jumper.
“The country has been good to me. I don’t know about the people, but the country has.”