Windrush era migrants 'denied re-entry to Britain after Caribbean visits'

Details have emerged of long-standing UK residents from the so-called Windrush generation who say they have been refused re-entry to Britain after visits to the Caribbean.

Gretel Gocan, 81, told 5 News she had been stuck in Jamaica since 2010 unable to return to her south London home after taking a holiday to visit family.

Former NHS nurse Icilda Williams, who moved back to Jamaica in 1996 after 34 years in Bradford, said her annual visits to the UK to see her children had been halted since 2014 after she was denied a visa.

The cases emerged amid continuing controversy over the treatment of Commonwealth citizens who arrived in the UK between the late 1940s and early 1970s and have recently found their migration status under challenge.

Former NHS nurse Icilda Williams says she has been denied a visa to visit family in the UK (5 News)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded an apology from Theresa May for the policy she introduced as Home Secretary of creating a "hostile environment" for illegal immigrants by requiring individuals to prove their right to be in the UK before receiving services.

"She's the one that ordered the vans to go around telling immigrants to go home," said Mr Corbyn. "She's the one that created that nasty atmosphere.

"What's happening is something quite disgusting. People that have given their lives to this country, to our health service, to our education system, our transport system are suddenly being told to go home."

Mr Corbyn dismissed claims from Mrs May's former adviser Nick Timothy that the then home secretary had opposed the deployment of vans telling illegal immigrants to "go home", but that the plan had been put into action when she was away on holiday.

"She wanted to create this hostile atmosphere towards immigrants in this country," said the Labour leader. I think it's time that she apologised for that as well as for the events that have happened to the people of the Windrush generation."

Speaking to 5 News, Ms Gocan's daughter Pauline Blackwood said her mother had been stranded in Jamaica with no money and no pension.

The 81-year-old says she came to the UK in 1960 and never applied for a British passport, but had a stamp in her Jamaican passport granting her indefinite leave to remain.

That document was stolen in 2006 and when she went to Jamaica on a new passport in 2010 she found herself refused permission to return to the UK and told she needed a visa, she said.

This 81-year-old woman has never seen or held her grandchildren after she was barred from returning to her home in the UK ten years ago.

Her children are worried that with no pension or NHS support Gretel will die in Jamaica without her family. #WindrushGenerationpic.twitter.com/ci1eoUxuUd

-- 5News (@5_News) April 20, 2018

"My mum has six children in the UK and she has grandchildren and some of them she hasn't seen or even held," said Ms Blackwood.

"Her family is here and it is for her to make that choice whether she chooses to stay in Jamaica or come back to the UK, but that is not an option for her, she is forced to stay in Jamaica.

"My main fear is we're going to lose our mum. She has no money, all her pension's been stopped and her medication too - she has diabetes - that's all been denied to her."

Gretel Gocan with her daughter, who flew out to see her in Jamaica (5 News)

Mrs Williams said she held a British Commonwealth passport until 1967. After being denied a visitor's visa to come to Britain in 2014, she says she applied for a UK passport but was turned down because the authorities could not find records of her old Commonwealth passport.

Her son Kenneth, who came to the UK as a nine-year-old in 1969, was told he did not have the right to reside in Britain in 2016 when he made an application for Jobseekers' Allowance.

Mrs Williams told 5 News: "It has upset me a great deal because my daughter-in-law died last February and I couldn't go and my son was so ill and I couldn't get to see him.

"I'm the only one here away from the family, because I came here when my husband was wanting to come home and I came with him and he died here. And just to go back and see the family and come back, I would love it."

Asked if she had a message for Home Secretary Amber Rudd, she said: "I would say to her she make a mistake. Just do it right and allow people to come in and see their family."

Some 232 people have so far contacted a Home Office helpline set up to offer support for members of the Windrush generation with concerns about their migration status.

The first four people whose cases have gone to a dedicated team of officials have been given permanent residence status.

A rally was being held in support of those affected and their families at Windrush Square, Brixton, south London, on Friday afternoon.

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