LONDON, England, December 17, 2021 - Members of the Windrush Generation won a major court battle this week when the High Court ruled that their human rights were breached when the Home Office refused to grant them citizenship.
The Court was told that the claimants, Eunice Tumi and Vernon Vanriel, were denied British citizenship when they applied for it under the Windrush scheme. They were advised by the home secretary that the law required that they be resident in the UK five years before the date on which they made the application for citizenship.
However, the court was told that the only reason they could not fulfil this requirement was because the home secretary had unlawfully prevented them from coming back to the UK earlier. The Minister could have applied discretion when considering citizenship applications, said the judge.
An order has been made by the high court that states that the Home Office acted unlawfully in refusing the citizenship applications of Tumi and Vanriel and that they should be redetermined within 42 days. Central London county court will look at the issue of whether both are entitled to damages as a result of the breach of their human rights.
#ICYMI: Windrush members’ human rights were breached by the Home Office, says High Court. Vernon Vanriel and Eunice Tumi were refused citizenship and locked out of UK for years. https://t.co/wc71nAAx0d— Nadine White (@Nadine_Writes) December 16, 2021
Both claimants were initially locked out of returning to the UK after periods spent abroad – Vanriel spent time in Jamaica and Tumi, who is of Ghanaian heritage, spent time in Ghana and the US.
They were only granted indefinite leave to remain after the Windrush scandal, when it emerged that those who arrived in the UK from Caribbean countries from 1948 onwards, as well as their children, were wrongly targeted by the government’s “hostile environment” policies designed to deter illegal immigrants.
Lawyers for the claimants said the case showed that the Home Office continued to breach the human rights of persons identified as members of the Windrushgeneration, by refusing to recognise them as British, even when they traveled to the UK as British colonial citizens. In addition, the sole reason they were not British was the historical injustice committed by the Home Office over the past decades.
The Guardian pointed out that according to government data, 11,000 people have been refused citizenship following applications under the Windrush scheme. While not all will benefit from Thursday’s ruling many will now be able to reapply.
The judge said those members of the Windrush generation who were locked out of British citizenship under the five-year rule are “perhaps in significant numbers”.
Jeremy Bloom, of Duncan Lewis solicitors, who brought the case for Vanriel and Tumi, said: “This judgment is an absolute vindication for our clients who have shown amazing courage and determination to challenge the Home Office’s unlawful decisions.
“Our clients were locked out of the UK for years by the Home Office through no fault of their own, then told that they did not qualify for British citizenship because they did not meet the residency requirements.” He added that the case showed the lessons of the Windrush scandal had not been learned.
Vanriel, is a 66 year old former boxer who had lived in London for 43 years, taking up residence there as a six-year-old in 1962. He took a trip to Jamaica in 2005 and was prevented from returning to the UK. He spent 13 years on the island and after the Windrush scandal broke he was allowed to return to his family in Britain.
His application for citizenship was refused in February this year on the grounds that he had been out of the country five years before his application was submitted – as a direct result of the Home Office’s errors.
The Guardian report quotes a Home Office spokesperson as saying: “The fact that Mr Vanriel and others were wrongly prevented from returning to the UK is appalling. No one should be prevented from obtaining their British citizenship because they have been failed by successive governments.
“The current outdated law, regrettably, does not allow the five-year requirement to be waived. However, as the high court has now ruled that this can be done in exceptional circumstances, we will immediately consider the [two] cases covered by this judgment.”
The Home Office said legislation was amended in the nationality and borders bill, which was passed in the House of Commons last week, correcting “outdated” nationality laws to allow people in similar circumstances to Vanriel to obtain British citizenship much more easily, the Guardian report says.
Lynda Mahabir won her case against the government to let her family come to live with her in the UK.In another case, Seven months ago, the High Court also ruled in favour of Trinidadian
The ruling indicated that the Home Office unlawfully prevented the children and husband of a Windrush generation woman from joining her in the UK, separating the family for almost three years in a manner the high court ruled represented “a colossal interference” in her right to family life.
In a judgment that could help many others from the Windrush cohort to bring close relatives to the UK, the family of Lynda Mahabir, who was stuck outside the UK for almost 40 years, will now be able to join her in Britain without paying some twenty thousand pounds in immigration fees.
the 52 year old Mahabir was brought to London as a two-month-old baby in 1969. She remained in the country until 1977 when her father took her back to Trinidad to live with him. She was eligible for British citizenship but was unaware of her rights. As a result she was unable to return, and was separated for more than 40 years from her mother and half-siblings in the UK until the Home Office immigration scandal broke in 2018, when the government promised to right the wrongs done to the Windrush generation.
Mahabir applied to the Home Office’s Windrush taskforce and was granted permission to move back to Britain, however she realized that her family would not be able to join her when she discovered that officials would not waive her family’s over £20,000 immigration fees, which she was unable to pay.
The Windrush scheme was launched in 2018 in an effort to rectify the injustices caused by the government’s hostile environment policy, which wrongly targeted people who arrived legally in the UK from Commonwealth countries prior to 1973.
In the 1980s, the UK government established a programme to register Windrush-generation people, allowing them to obtain UK citizenship regardless of whether they were of good character. There was no obligation for people to register and some 8,000 chose not to do so. Many of these have never been formally naturalised.