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Windrush Crisis: 'I couldn't attend my own father's funeral'

STRANDED: Euen Herbert-Small has been fighting for British citizenship for over a decade – and his battle is far from over

A SECOND generation Windrush descendant who has spent several weeks in immigration detention centres over the past decade, has told The Voice of his struggle to secure his immigration status.

Euen Herbert-Small, a father of two, has been fighting for his right to stay and work in the UK for 15 years. He came to the UK in 2003 with hopes of completing his pilot qualifications or pursuing a career as an IT engineer.

Instead he found himself locked into an immigration battle that saw him detained three times – in 2011 for three months, in 2009 for two weeks and in 2013 for one week. He has also had to fight for his children – a 12-year-old son and a nine-year-old daughter, both born in the UK – to be recognised as British citizens. “When it comes to Windrush, what they’ve [the Government] done is essentially dealt with the cases that are in the media and they’re getting those cases out of the media spotlight and then reverting to their old attitudes. And that’s not just my opinion, it’s also the opinion of lawyers who practise in this area and have been campaigning with us over the last four months since the scandal broke,” he said.

Herbert-Small’s experiences have left him distrustful of the Government and sceptical of its response.

He believes that the Home Office’s interactions with people from the Caribbean over the last 60 years need to be reviewed and examined. “I don’t trust them. We have an inclination that it’s brute discrimination and racism but the documents will show that, so I don’t trust them because they won’t show us what’s going on. The review needs to go deeper – and it needs to be more independent.”

As a result of his uncertain immigration status, Herbert-Small’s passport was seized by the Home Office in 2010, essentially leaving him trapped in limbo – he could not work in the UK nor could he leave to build a life elsewhere. It meant he missed the funeral of his father who died in 2011.

“I couldn’t travel, they wouldn’t give me my passport back. It was so ridiculous. You hear these stories and you think, ‘You want me to leave and here is an opportunity, I’m actually trying to go to my father’s funeral in New York and you wouldn’t give me my passport’. I have not left Britain for 15 years – I felt trapped and just completely disenfranchised of my rights.” It was only this year, amid the explosion of the Windrush immigration scandal, that Herbert-Small's fate moved closer to his end goal.

Herbert-Small has now been granted leave to remain for 30 months as the result of an application he submitted citing Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – a right to respect for one’s family life.

REJECTED

He had tried to apply for citizenship under the government’s Windrush scheme but was rejected.

At the end of the 30 months his leave to remain will have to be renewed for him to continue to stay in the UK. It is a 10- year route to British citizenship, meaning, if successful, he will officially become a British citizen aged 48 at the earliest.

For Herbert-Small it is an important development, but not one that he is satisfied with.

“I don’t feel much different. I just feel a little bit more free, but that’s the only difference. I feel more independent now,” he said.

He added: “It’s not the end goal and so I feel that I’m in fight mode every day. “I’ve been in fighting mode for so long and I know the fight’s not finished.”

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