A Warwick Gates woman has told of how her family is being affected by the Windrush scandal and how they suffered from racism when they lived together in Leamington in the 1960s.
Gersham Elkanah Brown, his wife Iciline and their three children Freddie, Noel and Monica arrived in Leamington in 1964 as part of the Windrush generation named after the ship HMT Empire Windrush which arrived in Tilbury Docks carrying 1,027 passengers from the Caribbean at the invitation of the British Government to rebuild the country after the devastation of the Second World War.
But now Iciline, whose three eldest children were born during her and her late husband’s first stint in the UK between 1955 and who has since moved back to and lived in Jamaica for several decades, is struggling to regain her status as a British citizen which she was given back in those days.
Monica, of Warwick Gates, said: “Our positive, productive family of British citizens now finds itself at the sharp end of the Government’s savage, sadistic and wicked policies which have seen the Windrush generation denied their citizenship, shackled, imprisoned, deported and denied re-entry to the UK under the pretext that they are no longer citizens.
“My mother lived in Leamington and worked at Warwick Hospital and later at Myton Hamlet children’s home.
“After she was issued a British passport here in the UK on July 7 1962 we are struggling to get a definitive answer from the British passport office about the location of her records.
“We have recently been informed by the passport office that our mother ‘lost her British status when Jamaica became independent in 1962’.
“So, the British passport which was issued to her and valid for ten years, became invalid ten days later.
“In addition, under the Government’s intentional hostile immigration policy, my mother has been denied a UK visa and is unable to see all her four children, her grandchildren and great-granddaughter - all who are living in the UK as British citizens.
“We are currently fighting for her to regain her British citizenship which has been stripped at the whim of this Government policy.
“At no point did she renounce or revoke her British citizenship.”
Monica, whose younger brother Phillip was born at the former Warneford Hospital in Leamington in 1966, said that her father knew that due to the “overt, frequent and causal racism” he experienced while working as a builder in the UK at the time of the family living in Leamington that their stay had to be limited.
She said that, as an eight-year-old girl living in Bury Road and playing in the front garden, she was once spat on by a white adult man walking by.
She also said her brother Freddie, now a retired minister, life coach and counsellor, said he would have ended up in prison had he stayed in Leamington due to the amount of fights he was getting into as a result of racist taunting.
But she also has fond memories of the time the family lived in the town
She said: “My father had come to the UK with a clear mission to pursue further studies as a civil engineer.
“He was determined to be productive and constructive and the family found respect, friendship and brotherhood at the Leamington Baptist Church.
“David Gay, the late former headmaster of Cashmore Primary School also ensured that racist abuse was not tolerated and Noel, Phillip and I are still friends with Brain Noon and Danville Griffiths who were teachers from that era.
“In addition to working and studying my father gave leadership to the now defunct Afro Caribbean Organisation.
“He was invited by Warwick District Council to become a councillor and had he stayed in Leamington he could have become the town’s first mayor of Afro Caribbean origin.”
*** Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western has had his say on the current Windrush scandal and on Monica Brown’s story relating to it.
He said: “The recent news and subsequent events surrounding the Windrush scandal will have been of great concern to many in the community, no matter their background.
“This area is enriched by its multiculturalism and its social diversity so the news that some in our community should have been the victims of the Home Office’s ‘hostile environments’ policy will disturb many. I met with Monica last week to hear the story of her mother.
“That this country should be behaving in such a way to its own people worried me so much that I ask that you share this with your readers.
“Indeed, the concern reaches beyond the ‘Windrush generation’ to those that arrived from other corners of the globe and, legitimately, have made their homes here.
“It is important that everyone hears this story.”
Monica took part the Justice for Windrush march in Coventry last Saturday.