The British high commission in Kingston has compounded the misery of Windrush victims by failing to resolve their cases for over two decades, the Labour MP David Lammy has said.
The Guardian has heard testimony from a number of British citizens who said they were dealt with dismissively when they asked for help at the UK’s diplomatic base in the Jamaican capital.
Ken Morgan, 68, said he was simply brushed off and offered no help by the high commission when his British passport was confiscated without explanation 25 years ago when they would only tell him: “That was never a proper British passport.”
Morgan, whose case is now one of those the Home Office is trying to swiftly resolve, described his treatment by the high commission as “so insensitive, so cruel, so heartless” and called for an inquiry into the handling of Windrush cases.
Lammy, the Tottenham MP who has led a Commons campaign to help those wrongly deported or expelled from Britain, said concerns about the high commission added to the urgency of the need for the government to act.
He said: “The failings of the Home Office have been compounded by British government representatives in Jamaica and these stories from people who have been deported and treated so horrendously are yet more evidence of the litany of abject failure that is the .
“The UK government must act quickly to bring these people home and to compensate them for deporting British citizens if [the home secretary] Sajid Javid’s promise is to mean anything.”
The British high commissioner’s office declined the Guardian’s request for an interview with Asif Ahmad, who took over as commissioner in August 2017, and failed to respond to a request for comment about the concerns raised.
Morgan, a former English teacher who arrived in England in 1959 aged nine, and “like an ant under a hobnail boot” when he was turned away by the high commission after approaching it for help.
He said: “I didn’t think I had a voice. I felt the system was so oppressive. It was just so strong and I’m one person. I didn’t think I could fight the system. I didn’t know my rights and that’s what they use against you. If you don’t know your rights and you don’t have the means to access legal assistance.
“Sometimes I go to bed I can’t sleep because I think about it. You have a job to do, it’s your job: how can you not know I’m British. How do you see me? What do you see when you see me? Do you only see the colour of my skin? Anything else? Your job is to help me. What the hell’s going on with the British high commission?”
Based in the New Kingston district of the Jamaican capital, in a neighbourhood of other embassies and expensive western hotels, the British high commission sits behind 10ft-high walls covered with spikes and barbed wire and is guarded by a 24-hour security checkpoint.
Windrush victims said they felt denied access to their legal right for help because they had to travel long distances to make appointments at the high commission, a logistical struggle for those reliant on public transport especially given the older age of those affected.
Icilda Williams, an 83-year-old widowed nurse, and has had multiple requests to visit her family in the UK refused. She said difficulty accessing the high commission in person was partly to blame for her being stuck in Jamaica. She said: “I’m too old to wait in lines at the high commission in Kingston, to go for interview after interview – we should be able to visit our families, my pension is in the UK, my house is there, my kids are there.”
Diana Baxter, an immigration lawyer at the London-based solicitors’ firm Wesley Gryk – who has acted for a number of Windrush-related cases, said many of her clients had reported bad experiences at the high commission: “A lot of people have had difficult experience with the British high commission in Kingston. Certainly over the years instances with decision-makers in Kingston, it has not always been great.”
The high commission has also been criticised for its part in producing the for people deported from the UK, which advises them “Try to be Jamaican – use local accents and dialect”. The brochure, entitled Coming home to Jamaica, advises deportees about the most basic parts of Jamaican life, including the name of the currency, the time zone and local newspapers and radio stations.