Windrush campaigner who died had 'spirit broken by government', friend says

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A Windrush campaigner has died "a broken woman" just a month after delivering a petition to Downing Street calling for action to address the failings that led to the scandal.

Paulette Wilson, who died unexpectedly aged 64 on Thursday, was a "precious gem" who was "broken by the Government", according to family friend and fellow Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon.

Ms Wilson, from Wolverhampton, came to Britain from Jamaica aged 10 in the late 1960s.

She spent two years under the threat of deportation and spent some time in a detention centre before being told she could stay in the UK in 2017.

At the time, Ms Wilson said that an apology from then-home secretary Amber Rudd was “a good thing” but added: “What about all the other people who were sent away before my case became big?”

She went on: “It’s just upsetting to think that an ordinary person like me could go through something like that. I’m still going through hell at the moment.

“It’s really hard for me to put it in words… I’m still hurt, I’m still hurt, that’s all I can say.”

On the news of Ms Wilson's death, Mr Vernon said: "It's a complete shock. She died a broken woman, that's all I can say".

He also praised her activism, saying Ms Wilson inspired "hundreds, if not thousands" of other people caught up in the Windrush scandal to tell their story.

He added: "If it wasn't for all those stories we wouldn't have had the scandal and exposed the government and the government do a u-turn on immigration policy".

Along with Anthony Bryan, Elwardo Romeo, Glenda Caesar, Michael Braithewaite, Patrick Vernon and her daughter, Ms Wilson delivered the petition to Downing Street last month.

Natalie Barnes, Ms Wilson's daughter, said she found her mother early on Thursday, and she appeared to have died in her sleep.

She added: “My mum was a fighter and she was ready to fight for anyone. She was an inspiration to many people. She was my heart and my soul and I loved her to pieces.

Ms Wilson supported and gave her name to the Paulette Wilson Windrush Citizenship Project, which was launched by Wolverhampton's Refugee and Migrant Centre in partnership with Wolverhampton council in 2018.

  • Beverley Wright, Paulette's cousin, on her legacy:

The project advises and supports local members of the Windrush generation in gaining citizenship.

Councillor Ian Brookfield, Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, said: "As a council, we were proud to be able to work with Paulette, her family and the Refugee and Migrant Centre to help support local residents to gain their rightful British citizenship.

"She will be much missed by everyone who knew her, and on behalf of the council I pass on our sincere condolences to her friends and family.”

Refugee and Migrant Centre Casework Team Manager Dan Ashwell said Pauline "dutifully carried the fight for others from the Windrush generation and was instrumental in bringing about change". 

A report published in March found the Windrush scandal – which saw people with a right to live in the UK wrongfully detained or deported to the Caribbean – was “foreseeable and avoidable” with victims let down by “systemic operational failings” at the Home Office.

Official figures published in May revealed fewer than 5% of claims made under a compensation scheme for victims have been paid out.

Since the scandal emerged in 2018, more than 11,700 people have been given “some form of documentation”, Home Secretary Priti Patel told the House of Commons in March.