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Man receives right to abode after 10yr immigration battle

UNIMPRESSED: Romeo is not convinced by Theresa May’s apology over the Windrush affair despite his status being confirmed (Photo credit: Ken Passley)

AUCKLAND ELWALDO Romeo, a man who has resided in the UK since the age of four, has been told he has the right to remain after more than 10 years of being deemed an illegal immigrant by the Home Office.

Romeo recently received a letter from the Home Office informing him that he has the right to be in the UK.

However, speaking to The Voice, he said: “I feel bitter for my people. Not for myself per se but for what my ancestors and what my generation and future generations have to go through just to be recognised.”

His apparent illegal status was brought to light when he applied to renew his British passport after losing it.

But he was told by the Passport Office that he could not be issued with a new British passport as, according to them, he had never had one.

WARNING

At one point Her Majesty’s Passport Office warned him that his documents would be destroyed. Romeo said that after sending his identification documents to the authorities he was told that he applied too late.

In a bid to verify his status, the British resident, who for most of his life went by the name Elwaldo Romeo, changed his name by deed poll after discovering the addition of Auckland as his first name on his birth certificate. Romeo was not listed as his last name on his birth certificate.

However, just before Easter, Romeo was informed by the Home Office via a phone call that he had the right to stay.

He said: “They told me I will not be deported, I will not need to go back to the Home Office every two weeks to register and I have the right to work.”

He was subsequently told that not only did he now have the right to abode, but he had always had the right to abode. “I can only be what I am. I can’t pretend to be an Antiguan,” he said. “I left there when I was four. I’ve lived here all my life,” the grandfather-of- five said.


DISAPPOINTED: Theresa May

The 63-year-old said he doesn’t know what his family, who he says were more emotional about the ordeal than he was, would have done if he was considered an illegal immigrant. At the time of writing, Romeo was still awaiting his new passport, but he had been fast-tracked through the application process.

Romeo was initially sceptical about sharing his experiences, but said he thought about the bigger picture. “When I thought about it and I thought this has happened to a lot of people – maybe [they’re] not in the same position as me and maybe I can highlight that if it can happen to someone like me, it can happen to anybody.”

He criticised Prime Minister Theresa May over her initial failure to agree to meet with leaders from Caribbean countries over the Windrush immigration fiasco and was sceptical about celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Empire Windrush arrival.

“What is there to celebrate really? You’ve depleted a whole race of people of their...people with all their skills.”

He added: “At the end of the day it’s a big black cloud isn’t it. The Government has created a big black cloud.” Romeo said he believed that immigration authorities are motivated by targets.

“They see you as a statistic on their chart that’s got to be deported. What they are doing, it’s about race...it’s wrong. They’re picking on a particular race of people, which fundamentally they’ve got laws against,” he added. He was also unimpressed by the Government’s offer of citizenship to the Windrush generation.

GOALPOST

“British citizenship? We’ve never lost it. How can you apply for something you’ve not lost? Because [they] want to move the goalpost doesn’t mean we have to move with [them]. We are what we are.”

He is undecided about where he will visit first once his new passport comes through – the wedding of a niece is on the cards, but he’d also like to revisit his birthplace of Antigua, a country he was unable to return to for his mother’s funeral.

Whatever his destination of choice, Rachelle Romeo, his daughter, who spoke at a recent Windrush event organised by MP Diane Abbott, is likely to still be weary.

He said: “At this moment in time, when I sit down with my daughter she says to me: ‘Dad, when you get that passport just make sure you take the passport number in case you lose it again.’

"Until I get it, her mind won’t be at rest.”

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