'Used and abused': Windrush scandal victims share their stories after leaving the UK for Jamaica

  • ITV News Central reporter Pablo Taylor has been to Jamaica to meet two victims of the Windrush scandal who are now living on the island after leaving the Midlands

4,500 miles from Birmingham, Anthony Williams is getting used to his new life in Jamaica.

He was born on the island, but left with his mother in 1971, aged seven, for a better life in Britain.

After attending both primary and secondary school, he joined the army at 16.

But one day in 2013, whilst working as a general maintenance worker at a conference centre, he was called into a meeting with HR, classified as an illegal immigrant and sacked.

"Confused… Just purely confused," he said. "I went back to my flat and just sat around for a couple of hours to work out what was going on."

'I just couldn't work out why this was happening to me'

Anthony tried to sign on but was also denied benefits. Then, his problems got worse when months later he developed a mouth infection but was turned away from the dentist.

"They asked me for an I.D. and a proof of address, which I provided with the letter and my photo I.D. as a driver's licence, and the receptionist then asked me for further I.D. which I never had.

"She wanted my passport, which I didn't have, and refused me to register."

Anthony’s infection spread and he was forced to pull some of his own teeth out with pliers. 

Anthony Williams photographed at the time Credit: Photo taken by Christopher Thomond/Guardian/eyevine

He went on to spend five years living destitute at his flat in Birmingham, scared that immigration officers were looking for him.

"I just couldn't work out why this was happening to me. It got to one point. I wouldn’t open my front door. If anyone knocked on my door, I wouldn’t open it because I was afraid, I don't know why I was just afraid."

Derrick Peterkin was homeless for more than two-and a half years after being denied benefits

200 miles across the other side of Jamaica is Derrick Peterkin, from Nottingham.

Like Anthony, he was born on the island, but has spent nearly all of his life in the UK.

He says he was homeless for more than two and a half years after being denied universal credit and social housing.

"I was told I wasn’t eligible for it. That night I spent on the tram until about half past four. Basically the next 24 hours I was just basically just running on the tram, dodging the ticket collectors because that was the only way I could really keep warm."

Derrick’s experience on the streets of Nottingham at times led to alcohol abuse.

"To be treated that way in a city that you lived in longer than a lot of people… it’s the biggest chip I’ve ever had to carry. To end up on the garbage heap is a pretty tough indictment of the times we’re living in."

Anthony and Derrick were both victims of the Windrush scandal.

Their treatment was no accident, but the result of government policies specifically designed to toughen the UK’s stance on immigration.

But whilst cracking down on illegal immigration, the policies unfairly targeted members of the Windrush generation, who had been invited to Britain from 1948.

Although they had been granted indefinite leave to remain, many found themselves on the wrong side of immigration law and unable to prove their right to stay in the country.

There are no official figures, but it is thought that thousands of people were affected, with some wrongfully deported.

Derrick says he still is coming to terms with the way he was treated

Anthony, who spent 13 years in the British army, says his treatment means he now regrets joining the army.

He says he approached the Ministry of Defence for help while trying to prove his Britishness, but was simply referred to the Home Office.

"I feel used and abused. I gave the army the best part of my life. Now I’m out of the army they don’t want anything to do with me. If I had to do it all over again, there’s no way I’d join the army."

ITV News has asked the Ministry of Defence for comment.

Derrick, meanwhile, says the pain of spending nearly three years homeless has left him deeply hurt by the country he considered home.

"I’m struggling to get to terms with what’s happened to me. Hopefully I will be able to move on. At some point I have to live my life. I have to keep continuing to go the best way forward. That’s all I can do."

Both Anthony and Derrick received compensation from the Home Office.

Derrick says he plans to come back to the UK.

Anthony has vowed never to return.

If you, or someone you know, as been affected by issues raised in this article, you can access support from the following organisations