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At my lowest point, I was homeless, sleeping on the streets and nearly died of hunger.
Even just to wash my face in the winter, I had to go to my friend’s garage to use their taps, which felt like ice on my face.
All of this is due to the Government’s inept hostile environment policy, meant to deter illegal immigration, that forced me – and thousands of others like me, known as the Windrush generation – to lose everything I had worked so hard to achieve since coming to the UK 50 years ago.
I’ve spent years fighting it, but that fight is still not over.
I grew up very happy in Jamaica eating a lot of fresh food – including red apples, berries. I lived on fruit. As children, we used to make scooters with wood and wheels, and play with them. There was no racism.
I grew up happy with my grandmother after my mother had moved to the UK in the 60s to better her life – she was working as a seamstress.
As my grandmother got older, my mother felt that London would be a good place for me to build my life. So in 1972 – when I was just 16 – I moved from Jamaica to the UK.
Straight after I arrived, I moved to Finsbury Park in north London. I was very surprised at how people lived here – so many people crammed into small homes. In Jamaica, I was used to big houses with a lot of garden and green space.
I enrolled into college because I wanted to be a doctor, but I never got the opportunity. My mother’s house was too small for us, so I had to quickly find a job so we could have more space to live.
The people of this country have been on the streets dying of hunger because of the Home Office’s hostile environment policies (Picture: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
I worked as a mechanic and then with British Rail – and that was my life. I settled here. I had two children and eventually, after years of working hard, I got a mortgage and bought a flat for us in Hackney.
Unbeknownst to me, while I was living my life and providing for my family, those in power – particularly Home Secretary Theresa May under the Tory Government led by David Cameron – were rolling out anti-immigration policies that would soon ruin the life that I had built, and that of thousands more like me.
I became a victim of these policies in 2014. I had recently renewed my passport, and the authorities that had produced my new documents hadn’t re-applied the Indefinite Leave to Remain stamp that I automatically got when I moved here more than 40 years prior.
When I moved in 1972, there was still free movement between the UK and its former colonies – this country was inviting us to live here and …read more