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Windrush scandal Windrush victim forced to sleep in London bin shed
Roy Harrison, who came to Britain from Jamaica aged six, fighting deportation notice
A man caught in the Windrush scandal has resorted to sleeping in a freezing bin shed because the Home Office has not regularised his status and is trying to deport him.
Roy Harrison, 44, arrived in the UK as a six-year-old. He had been abandoned as a newborn in Jamaica by his mother and left on his grandmother’s doorstep.
She brought him up until he was six but became too old to continue looking after him so asked her daughter, Harrison’s aunt, who was living in the UK, to take him to Britain.
Harrison’s aunt agreed and he lived with her and her family for a few years. He was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. At the age of 10 he was taken into care and remained there until he was 18.
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He then began working, and has two sons, now aged 23 and 25. The older one has an eight-month-old baby.
Harrison is a vulnerable individual with several serious health conditions, including problems with both feet that cause difficulty with walking. He needs corrective surgery but because the Home Office is not allowing him to work, and has denied him access to public funds, he is unable to get NHS treatment.
Harrison arrived in the UK in 1984 and therefore qualifies for leave to remain under the Home Office’s Windrush scheme. However, owing to a conviction for theft – a crime he says he is innocent of – the Home Office wants to deport him.
He has resorted to sleeping in a cold bin shed covered in pigeon droppings on a south London council estate, which he has to slide in and out of through a small hatch.
Harrison’s problems began during the inner-city riots in 2011, after the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan. He and his children were living in Croydon, south London, at the time. He was taking one of his sons, then 13, home when they became separated from each other because of the unrest in the area.
He went into a shop to look for his son and was then reunited with him. He is shown on CCTV going into the shop and leaving empty handed. Yet he was charged with theft and advised to plead guilty, even though he insisted he had not stolen anything and had never committed any crime.
He served eight months in prison and was then placed in immigration detention.
When the Windrush scandal erupted he hoped to sort out his immigration status. Initially the signs were positive and he was overjoyed when he received a letter from the Home Office this year stating he would soon receive a residence permit entitling him to remain in the UK.
However, the Home Office overturned this decision, saying it had made a mistake. It issued him with a deportation notice and he has been asked to report to the department’s Croydon office on 6 December.
The Home Office said its letter informing him that he would receive the biometric permit was an “administrative error”. It told the Guardian at the time: “We accept that a mistake was made in this case for which we sincerely apologise.”
Harrison says he is terrified of not surviving the winter in the bin shed and of being deported to Jamaica.
“All I can remember about my early life in Jamaica is being an outcast because I had no mother and no father. My life is here in the UK. I have never known anything else,” he said.
“All my growing up stories, my school days are here. It really kills me that the Home Office want to take me and put me somewhere I do not know.”
Harrison is getting thinner and weaker as sleeping in the bin shed in freezing temperatures night after night takes its toll. He has no money so is eating intermittently.
“I recently became a grandfather. All I want is to have a place to live where my grandkids can pop round. I feel that my whole world has collapsed. All I want is to have my freedom back. I’m terrified and I’m always looking over my shoulder for the Home Office.”
When he crawls into the bin shed to sleep he tries to make no sound and switches his mobile off as a ringing phone could give him away.
“If anyone from the council found me in here they would throw me out on to the street. I don’t want to sleep on the street where people can see me. I still have my pride.”
Harrison dreams of the Home Office overturning the deportation order and allowing him to remain in the UK.
“I had a little gardening business, RH and Family. Gardening is my passion. I love all flowers and plants. Each one has their own beauty. I used to do elderly people’s gardens for free. I would love to get an opportunity to build my business up again and go back to this work,” he said.
His solicitor, Jacqueline McKenzie of McKenzie Beute and Pope, said: “We want to get the deportation order overturned. At the moment Roy cannot access any benefits because of his immigration status nor any support from the Windrush hardship fund. He is destitute and homeless. I am extremely concerned about him.”
It is understood that the Home Office has been in touch with McKenzie about the case and that Harrison’s Windrush application remains outstanding.
- Windrush scandal
- Commonwealth immigration
- Immigration and asylum
- Foreign policy
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