Former NHS nurse born in UK with no criminal record deported to Ghana

Dean Ablakwa, 34, currently stateless in Accra despite having British birth certificate and studying and working in UK for more than a decade, raising fresh questions about government’s treatment of Commonwealth nationals in wake of the Windrush scandal

A former NHS nurse who was born in the UK and has no criminal record has been deported to Ghana, in a case that raises fresh questions over the British government’s treatment of Commonwealth nationals in the wake of the Windrush scandal.

Dean Ablakwa, 34, is currently stateless and unable to work in the Ghanaian capital Accra after the British government removed him in June 2017, despite the fact that he had previously worked and paid taxes in the UK for more than a decade.

With no relatives in the city, he has been sleeping on the friend of a friend’s sofa for the past year and a half and is relying on donations from family in the UK.

Speaking from Accra, Mr Ablakwa said: “It’s been mind-torturing. I can’t sleep properly. I am restless at night-time. Every time I dream I feel like I’m in prison. Even when I’m here I feel like I’m not free. I don’t feel like I’m meant to be here.

“I’m always indoors. I don’t want anyone to see me because I feel embarrassed. I can’t even fend for myself over here. I feel my human rights have been stripped away. I feel betrayed because I always thought I was British.”

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The 34-year-old was born in East London, but during a family holiday to Ghana when he was five both his parents were killed in a road accident. Unable to locate his passport, distant relatives adopted him into their home in Ghana and he remained there during his childhood.

When Mr Ablakwa turned 18, it was decided by his relatives that he must return to the UK to live with his aunt and uncle. With the whereabouts of his passport still unknown, a family member arranged for him to return to Britain illegally using somebody else’s passport.

On arrival in Britain he reverted to using his own identity and was able to obtain a driver’s license, National Insurance card and bank account using his birth certificate. He enrolled in college and later began working as a care assistant.

In 2012, the Enfield resident got a job as a trainee socio-therapist with the NHS in Homerton. But almost a year into the job, he was accused of helping a convicted murderer escape from a secure unit in the facility – a crime for which, after nine months in prison on remand, he was found not guilty.

Mr Ablakwa was released into homelessness because his flat had been repossessed while he was in jail, and he wasn’t given his NHS job back, for reasons he said were never made clear to him. He describes his imprisonment as the moment his human rights started to be “stripped away”.

With nowhere to live and without a job, Mr Ablakwa moved into his aunt’s house in Milton Keynes, at which point he began being targeted by immigration control.

“I was trying to apply for housing benefit, and I got a letter back from the government saying you’re not eligible for housing benefit, you’re an immigrant. You need to leave right now,” he said.

“I called the Home Office and explained what had happened. I had my birth certificate, my bank account, I had voted in elections, I had a GP. I had already been wrongly branded a criminal.”

Mr Ablakwa said the Home Office informed him that it was probably a mistake, but that he must apply for naturalisation because he was born after nationality law changes in 1983 and therefore didn’t automatically qualify for British citizenship.

He paid more than £1,000 to apply, using his last savings, but was refused on the grounds that, the Home Office said, he had not been eligible to work.

“I felt suicidal at this point. It felt so hurtful. It was just too much,” he said.

The 34-year-old was informed he must sign on with the Home Office in London once a month. During one of these meetings, he was told his application to remain on human rights grounds had been rejected and he was detained in Harmondsworth removal centre.

Three weeks later, he was apprehended by immigration officers and taken to a military base and onto a charter flight to Ghana.

Describing the moment he landed in Ghana, he said: “I felt hopeless. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know who to call; I didn’t know how to ask to come get me. I was no longer in touch with the distant relatives from my childhood. I felt lost.”

Why is the Home Office getting so many immigration decisions wrong?
Mr Ablakwa managed to borrow someone’s phone and call friends in the UK who put him in touch with people in the city who he has been staying with since. But with no Ghanaian ID, he has been unable to work or get a bank account and is relying on sporadic donations from friends and family in Britain.

The 34-year-old has no funds to pay for legal representation. His previous solicitor Naga Kandiah, of MTC Solicitors, said the main obstacle in his case was the fact that he couldn’t obtain his parents’ records, and accused the Home Office of “ignoring” non-Caribbean Windrush cases.

Chai Patel, legal and policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), who are currently looking into Mr Ablakwa’s case, said: “Sajid Javid has refused to expand his department’s review of Windrush cases of wrongful deportation to people from non-Caribbean countries like Ghana.

“By focussing only on Caribbean countries he is attempting to conceal the huge scope of the scandalous way in which people from all Commonwealth countries have been treated.

“The government must widen its review immediately to remedy the injustices caused to people from all over the world and their children, not just to those from the Caribbean.”

The Home Office refused to tell The Independent whether they held records for Mr Ablakwa’s parents, but claimed that no evidence has been provided, suggesting that they were residents in the UK before 1973.

With many thanks to: The Independent for the original story.

Tory goverment plans to deport millions of British Jamacian British citizens because of Brexit

The Windrush generation began arriving in the UK in 1948.

Some “terrible mistakes” were made in cases involving the Windrush generation facing deportation from the UK, says immigration minister Caroline Nokes.

Many long-term immigrants who arrived from the Commonwealth as children have been told they are here illegally.

The BBC understands Home Secretary Amber Rudd plans to set up a team in the Home Office to help those affected.

It follows a reversal by the prime minister, who will now discuss the issue with other Commonwealth leaders.

A meeting of leaders, which will take place this week, was announced amid growing calls for Theresa May to take action, including a letter from a cross-party group of 140 MPs.

Labour MP David Lammy tweeted that the meeting was a “small U-turn”, adding that he wanted the government to “guarantee the status of all the Windrush children caught up in this crisis” by the end of the day

“My hole life sunk to my feet” Windrush migrant Michrael Braithwaite

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted it was “disgraceful” that the rights of the Windrush generation had been brought into question, calling on Mrs May to “answer serious questions about how this happened on her watch”.

Mrs May’s spokesman said the prime minister was clear that “no-one with the right to be here will be made to leave”.

He added that the PM is “aware that many people are unlikely to have documents that are over 40 years old”.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he welcomed Mrs May’s decision to meet with other leaders, but added: “She must now go further and make an immediate commitment to recognise and secure the rights of Commonwealth citizens.”

Skip Twitter post by @DavidLammy

David Lammy

@DavidLammy

My parents arrived in this country from Guyana and I stand in Parliament as a proud son of the Windrush. Thank you to 140 colleagues including @jeremycorbyn @HackneyAbbott @AngelaRayner @YvetteCooperMP @ChukaUmunna @DawnButlerBrent for joining me in writing to @theresa_may today

Report

End of Twitter post by @DavidLammy

Thousands of prople arrived in the UK as children in the first wave of Commonwealth immigration 70 years ago.

They are known as the Windrush generation – a reference to the ship, the Empire Windrush, which brought workers from the West Indies to Britain in 1948.

Under the 1971 Immigration Act, all Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain – but the right to free movement between Commonwealth nations was ended from that date onwards.

However, the Home Office did not keep a record of those granted leave to remain or issue any paperwork confirming it, meaning it is difficult for the individuals to now prove they are in the UK legally.

The BBC understands that Home Secretary Ms Rudd will make a statement to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon to confirm the creation of a new team in her department to help the Windrush generation and ensure no-one loses their access to public services and entitlements.

She is also expected to waive fees so that those affected will not have to pay money for new documents to prove their status.

Mr Lammy has also tweeted that he has secured an urgent question in the Commons on Monday to push Ms Rudd for answers.

‘No question of right to remain’

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World at One, Ms Nokes said the Windrush generation had “contributed an enormous amount to our community [and] to our society” and that the government had “an absolute responsibility to make sure there are no more of these mistakes”.

Asked by ITV News if any people had been deported as a result of these “mistakes”, Ms Nokes said: “There have been some horrendous situations, which as a minister have appalled me.”

Told by the reporter “that’s a yes” and asked how many, she said: “No, I don’t know the numbers, but what I’m determined to do going forward is we’ll have no more of this.”

Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, said she wanted to reassure those affected, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “People who are in that situation, there is absolutely no question of their right to remain, and their right to gain access to services such as healthcare.”

A letter to the prime minister, co-ordinated by Mr Lammy, called for a “swift resolution of this growing crisis”.

It said: “We urge you to guarantee the status of all Commonwealth nationals whose right to remain is protected by law and to provide an effective, humane route to the clarification of their status.

“What is going on is grotesque, immoral and inhumane,” he said.

It was signed by 140 MPs including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston.

‘Not welcome’ in UK

Omar Khan, from the Runnymede Trust charity which has been involved in trying to tackle this issue, said the onus should be on the Home Office to help people find the documents they need.

He also called for an extension of legal aid to these cases.

He told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme: “These are individuals who do have legal rights – this is not really an amnesty. The issue is their ability to prove it through documentation is now quite difficult.”

Guy Hewitt, Barbados high commissioner, told the BBC: “I have held as a great honour the fact that I am the first London-born high commissioner for Barbados.

“This is the first time I have felt that the country of my birth is saying to people of my region ‘you are no longer welcome’.”

The Migration Observatory at Oxford University estimates there are 500,000 people resident in the UK who were born in a Commonwealth country and arrived before 1971.

People born in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries are thought to be more affected than those from other Commonwealth nations, as they were more likely to arrive on their parent’s passports without their own ID documents.

The Empire Windrush arriving at Tilbury Docks with 482 Jamaicans on board

Many have never applied for a passport in their own name or had their immigration status formalised, as they regarded themselves as British.

The Guardian newspaper has highlighted a number of cases of such people being threatened with deportation.

With many thanks to: BBC England for the origional story.