Members of the Windrush generation had their human rights breached when the Home Office refused to grant them citizenship, the high court has ruled.
Why did the Windrush scandal happen?
Named after the cruise ship which they arrive on, the Windrush generation are people who were invited to live and work in the UK from the Commonwealth (especially Caribbean countries) between 1948 and 1971.
In 2012 the Home Office announced a policy called the ‘Hostile Environment’ legislation which required the NHS, landlords, banks, employers and many others to enforce immigration rules. For example, landlords were not allowed to lease to tenants who did not have proper immigration papers. This policy aimed to make the UK unlivable for undocumented migrants and ultimately push them to leave.
Many of the Windrush generations lacked the paperwork to prove their right to remain in the UK because many were children who arrived on their parent’s passports, and records of their landing cards were destroyed by the Home Office years ago.
To make matters worse, the Home Office also placed the burden of proof on individuals to prove their residency predated 1973. Getting their hands on one official document for every year that they were in the UK from decades ago was simply impossible for many.
As a result, the Windrush citizens who failed to formalise their documents were falsely deemed as illegal immigrants and they began to lose their access to housing, healthcare, bank accounts and driving licenses.
Many were placed in immigration detention, prevented from travelling abroad and threatened with forcible removal, while others were deported to countries they hadn’t seen since they were children.
The High Court ruling that corrected the course of justice
Case: R (Vanriel and Tumi) v the Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 3415 (Admin)
Judgement date: 16 December 2021
Vernon Vanriel, the First Claimant, was a former British boxing champion and child of the Windrush generation. He came to the UK in 1962 as a boy. In 2005 he returned to Jamaica to bury his father but he was denied entry at the border for failing to prove his immigration status as a British citizen. His subsequent citizenship application failed but the only reason he did not fulfil the residency requirements was that the Home Office unlawfully prevented him from coming back to the UK. As a result, Vernon Vanriel was stranded in Jamaica away from his family for 13 years.
On 16 December 2021 Vernon Vanriel won a High Court battle arguing for citizenship law to be applied more leniently in special cases like his.
Mr Justice Bourne held that the Home Secretary had the discretion to disapply the requirement of the British Nationality Act 1981 that a person must be physically in the UK for 5 years before making an application for citizenship. The Court held that the failure to exercise this discretion amounted to a breach of the Claimants rights to private and family life and their rights not to be discriminated against (Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights).
The landmark decision by Mr Justice Bourne in R (Vanriel and Tumi) v the Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWHC 3415 (Admin) will help others like Vernon Vanriel to return to the UK and be granted their rightful immigration status.
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