"They Took My Passport": A 26-Year-Old On How The Windrush Scandal Has Impacted Her Family

The Windrush scandal has shocked the nation. Members of a generation who emigrated from the Caribbean to the UK between 1948 and 1971 to help rebuild the country after World War II, at the government's invitation, have been treated in ways that can only be described as subhuman.
The problem stems from the 1971 Immigration Act, which allowed Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK the right to remain here indefinitely. For many (now elderly) people who came here on their parents' passports and never became British citizens themselves, despite paying taxes and insurance for decades, a change to the immigration rules in 2012 was problematic, to say the least. Theresa May, then home secretary, introduced rules requiring employers, health services and landlords to demand evidence of people's immigration status – and left many people without access to crucial services because they didn't have citizenship.
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The news has been awash with tales of pensioners being denied NHS cancer treatment, the right to leave the country to attend a child's wedding, being denied re-entry into the country and separated from their families. One woman affected is 58-year-old Helen Joseph, who emigrated to the UK from St Lucia in 1967 when she was 8 years old as one of the Windrush children. Helen has lived in England all her life, but is not considered a British citizen as the British passport she was issued in St Lucia as a child has long since expired.
Following an announcement by Home Secretary Amber Rudd earlier this week, Helen may eventually qualify for citizenship without cost, meaning her UK citizenship fees, which can cost £1,000 or more, will be waived. However, she has so far received no such assurance from the government and her British-born children are embroiled in the scandal too – three of her five daughters have also been denied British citizenship and are considered "citizens of nowhere" by the state.
Helen's 26-year-old daughter, Nadine Louis, was born in Birmingham and grew up in Feltham, Greater London, where she still lives. Yet like her mum, and along with her sisters Eshea, 22, and Katrice, 18, Nadine is unable to obtain a British passport as she is not considered a British citizen. This is her story...
"My mum, sisters and I have been struggling to get passports for the last few years. My situation is slightly different to theirs because I had a passport in 2005 [when I went to St Lucia the first time]. My mum and nan were planning for all of us to go back again in 2006. My mum applied for passports for her and my two younger sisters and that's how it came out that, because she wasn’t born here, she wasn't a British citizen, so therefore we weren't either. Because of that they confiscated my passport. We’ve been told that we have to do a citizenship test in order to get passports and ever since then it's been a battle as to whether we're going to get them or not.
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"We wouldn't be able to afford the cost of applying for citizenship. I was only 13 when this happened and my mum didn't tell me any of it until I got a bit older. We tried to get passports again but every route brought a dead end. I just put it to the back of my mind until recently when this Windrush situation came up. Not being able to travel has had a big impact on our lives. There are places I’d like to go and see that I can’t because I don’t have a passport. I’m stuck here. It even affects me work-wise because there are jobs I've applied for in the past that I've been turned down for as a result.

For something this big to happen is upsetting because it's left a lot of people feeling worthless and like they don't belong anywhere.

"After so many failed attempts at getting a passport, I'd almost forgotten about it. It's frustrating and upsetting talking about it. Even now, with the news about Windrush, I didn’t really know what was going on until my cousin told me about it. She keeps up-to-date with what's going on in the news. The last time I applied for a passport, a couple of years ago, I was even told that they don't understand why I can't have one, because I was born here and have a British birth certificate, as do my sisters.

Britain is such a multicultural country, they always talk about how they value diversity but it does make you think, 'do you really?'

"I still feel British in the sense that I was born here but I don't feel British because I can't get a British passport. I do everything that a British person does. I work, I pay taxes, I pay my bills, I pay rent, I live here every day. It’s my home, but at the same time I can't get a passport. It feels like I'm here but I don't belong here. My mum was born in St Lucia, so some people would argue that she's St Lucian, but she hasn't been there since she was 8. I don't feel St Lucian because I’ve only been there once. I've never lived there so I don't know it, whereas I know Britain. Britain is more my home than St Lucia.
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"There were times during college and university when [my citizenship status] hit me. I was in the girls' football team at university and I couldn't go on the tour abroad. Eventually I just gave up and thought, 'What’s the point in trying when I’m just going to get knocked back every time?'
"I'm glad the Windrush scandal is out in the open because I finally feel like I can get a resolution. However, there’s still not much support for those affected. The government say they're going to help but there’s still no means of how we do it. No one's telling us what we need to do, the steps to take or who we need to call. So even though it’s out in the open, there’s still no confirmation of what we need to do.

People shouldn't have to be stressing about whether they’re going to be deported when they've lived somewhere their whole lives.

"Like every family in this situation, we just want to put it behind us and get on with our lives. For something this big to happen is upsetting because it's left a lot of people feeling worthless and like they don't belong anywhere. Britain is such a multicultural country, they always talk about how they value diversity but it does make you think, 'Do you really?' It’s hurtful and it feels like you don't matter. You pay your taxes, you do this, you do that, you do what's expected of you and this is what happens. I didn't realise how bad the problem was. I thought our cases were some of the worst but other people have already been deported.
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"It's caused me anxiety because the government could just decide to deport us at any moment, but there's nowhere for us to go back to. I think, 'Will I still be here next week or next year?' It's mentally exhausting. People shouldn't have to be stressing about whether they’re going to be deported when they've lived somewhere their whole lives. One day, if this ever gets resolved, I'd love to travel. I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt, Greece and America. My sisters should be able to go on holiday because they’ve never travelled. I’d like that for them and for my mum as well. We just want peace of mind and for everyone else who has been affected to be able to get on with their lives."
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