Sunday, 11 March 2018

Britain is no country for sick, scarce old, erstwhile Commonwealth citizens like 'Albert Thompson'

He has the assumed name of 'Albert Thompson' and has lived in London for 44 years. At 63, he is scarce 'old', but he does suffer from cancer. He arrived in Britain from Jamaica as a teenager in the late 1960s with his Mum, who got a job as a nurse. His Jamaican passport was lost a long time ago and Albert was never officially registered for British citizenship. Since then, he got married in Britain, has two grown up sons and a 15-year-old daughter, was employed full time as a mechanic and later did MOT work.

Albert's troubles began in 2008 when he was diagnosed with the blood cancer, 'lymphoma' and since then he has been too ill to work. Things got worse for him last July when he was evicted from his council-owned accommodation because officials questioned whether he was eligible for residence. The Home Office said it could find no record of him in its files and he was forced to sleep on the streets for three weeks. He said, with understatement : “I kept myself away from other people, sleeping around the back of shops. It was a bit frightening when you’re not used to it.” 

Since then, after he had surgery for prostate cancer in January last year, he was due to begin a course of radiotherapy at the Royal Marsden Hospital in November, but when he turned up for the appointment he was ushered into a side room by a member of staff for a discussion about his eligibility and costs. “I was expecting to get the treatment, but they gave me a form requesting a British passport" and “The lady wasn’t at all polite. She said you have to produce it or pay £54,000. I said: "Oh my God, I don’t have 54 pence, let alone £54,00."

A spokesperson for the Royal Marsden has said : “Each NHS Trust in England is legally responsible for identifying and charging overseas visitors using NHS services where the patient cannot prove that they are ordinarily resident and legally entitled to live in the UK. In line with Department of Health guidance, from 23 October 2017 the Royal Marsden is now legally required to charge non-eligible patients in advance of any treatment.”

Lawyers at Duncan Lewis are now trying to help Albert, but because there is no legal aid for his kind of case, they can only continue if exceptional funding is raised. Jeremy Bloom, has said the firm had been contacted by a number of people encountering similar problems : “The Home Office routinely fails to recognise people’s permission to be here, regardless of whether a person has been living in the UK, registered with numerous other government departments, paying taxes and contributing to society for decades. This case is particularly serious because of his urgent health needs, and the time that it will take for him to regularise his status here through making the appropriate immigration application. Meanwhile, he is being denied potentially life-saving treatment.”

Albert's case has also been taken up by the migration charity, 'Praxis,' which has seen a sharp rise in cases involving retirement-age Commonwealth citizens who have lived continuously in Britain for about 50 years, but are facing questions about their immigration status, resulting in evictions, refusal of benefits and dismissal from work. In 2015 it dealt with 20 such cases, in 2016 there were 39, in 2017 there were 54 and since the start of this year the charity has already dealt with 13.

Bethan Lant has said : “The numbers are galloping up. These are people who have paid taxes and contributed all their adult lives who are suddenly being stopped and asked : "On what basis are you here?” Their only crime is that they have not filled in a form from the Home Office.”

Sadly, Albert's case is not unique and lawyers at 'Southwark Law Centre' are fighting a similar case involving a man who arrived as a child from the Caribbean more than 40 years ago and who has also been told that he is not eligible for cancer treatment on the National Health Service. Like Albert, he has worked and paid his taxes for decades. After a legal challenge, he has received some treatment but he has been told he must pay for it.

The Home Office has said that it could not comment on the case because it had : 'not been provided with the details that would allow us to investigate these claims.'

Albert has said : “I don’t know what is going on inside; it is really worrying me. It feels like they are leaving me to die.”

Thurs 22nd February :
Britain, after all these years, still no country for old men who came as boys from the Commonwealth

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Brexit Britain, in a "pitiful muddle", is no country for an old Historian of 'Empire' called Jan Morris

Jan Morris is 91 years old and has had an extraordinary life. She spent the first half of it as a man. She was a soldier in the Second World War and then, as a Times journalist who broke the news, in 1953, of the first conquest of Everest. She changed sex in the 1970s, wrote more than 40 books, including the 'Pax Britannica Trilogy,' the history of the British Empire and through her writing built her reputation as one of the greatest descriptive writers of her time. Now, her latest book is 'Battleship Yamato: Of War, Beauty and Irony,' which deals with the life and death of the largest battleship which fought in the Second World War.

Last week Jan was interviewed by Mishal Husain on the BBC Radio 4 'Today' Programme who asked Jan : "Now we are in a relative time of peace, yet you write of this century as being 'anguished.' 'Our anguished 21st century.' Given the long sweep of you life, when you look at the United States, or indeed, the UK's decision to leave the EU, what is your assessment of the way that powers are shifting ?"

Jan : "It's a mess and a muddle isn't it ?  We're none of  us sure, quite, of anything : a path to take or destination to aim at."

Mishal : "When you consider Brexit and the decision to leave the EU, you, a historian of the British Empire, what do you think it says about the UK's place in the world ?"

Jan : "I think it is complete abdication of our place in the world or, indeed, if we want that place in the world. We've turned into a totally different sort of nation altogether. So, nationally, I've never seen this country in such a pitiful muddle."

Mishal : "Can you see a route that might work, that doesn't lead to a pitiful conclusion ?"

Jan : "No. If you count 'pitiful' meaning 'less than ever place in the world', no, I think that is absolutely inevitable."

When asked about her choice of subject matter for her latest book she said that she'd always interested in warships and didn't know why. The Yamato, operating in the Japanese Navy in the Pacific, had been the biggest and greatest battleship that had ever existed and : "The Japanese who had been reduced by then, chiefly, to to fighting their war by means of kamikaze air pilots, they'd' run out of those. They hadn't got kamikaze pilots any more, but they had this one great ship, which they decided to use as the ultimate kamikaze pilot, so to speak, and to send it into action against overwhelming American forces and sink itself in the course of its final action with the loss of almost all of the 3000 men on board."

Jan is best-known for her travel writing, particularly her portraits of cities such as Oxford, Venice, New York and Sydney. However, she calls her 'Pax Britannica Trilogy', a history of the British Empire, her most important work. Written, thirty years ago and, although her methods and views are now unfashionable in academia and discredited by the presenters of 'Post Colonial Theory,' it still stands as a magnificent achievement.

It is with supreme irony that Jan's greatest work, which focused on the Britain at its zenith as the premier world power, should now in its nadir and "complete abdication" of its place in the world and a country in a "pitiful muddle", should write about the fate of the Yamato. It could well be a metaphor for the fate of Britain which is also involved in a suicide mission as it attempts to cleave itself from the European Union and win a victory in a senseless and unwinnable 'I Want My Country Back' War.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to its old humourist Michael Green who gave it the philosophy of Coarse Rugby and Coarse Acting

Michael, who has died at the age of 91, was born in 1927 in a lower middle class suburb of Leicester where the family was supported by his father's war pension, having lost an arm in the 1914-18 War, ten years before Michael was born.

In the 1930s, rugby, rather than football,  was the main spectator sport in the Midlands and young Michael was an enthusiast not so much for the game but more to enjoy his father’s barracking of
the players and referee. He recalled : "My first contact with the Welsh was as a small child, sitting with my parents in the members stand at Welford Road, Leicester. I recall my father going purple in the face and I asked "Mummy, why is Daddy waving his fist at that man in the white shirt ?" Mother gently replied : "Because he's a Swansea player, dear,"

A bright boy, in 1937, he took up his place at the prestigious Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys where future naturalist, David Attenborough, was in the year above him and the future dramatist, David Compton, noted for his 'Theatre of the Absurd' in the 1950s was two years above.

Taught English by "Doc" Outram, who believed in the power of words, his taste for amateur dramatics first blossomed playing schoolboy in the school production of the James Hilton classic, 'Goodbye, Mr Chips.' He was one of the heavenly youth choir singing "Lord Behold Us With Thy Blessing," while Chips drew his last death in what Michael would later call an as 'All Purpose Coarse Death' which he described as : “Mr Chips was heard groaning and tottering round the stage, clawing at furniture, until a crash announced he had fallen down. The author intended Chips to die peacefully, but this was more like the demise of Lucky Luciano.”

Michael also indulged his passion for drama the evenings an enthusiastic member of his local amateur dramatic society and he had already learned at school that trick of comedians : that  nobody seemed to pay attention to him when he was serious, but only when he was fooling about.

He left school at the age of 16 in 1943 and started work as an editorial messenger with the Leicester Mercury and was then taken on as a trainee journalist. One of the things he took with him from the Mercury was his hypochondria which he acquired from writing up births, marriages and deaths which involved attending inquests, where he discovered ,as a teenager, how easy it was to die from a scratch or a germ.

Too young to be called up to serve in the War, he was assigned with another young journalist to night watch the offices for German incendiary bombs. Although this had a few perks : brown ale to drink, typewriters and telephones to use and the editor's cigars to smoke, they still found it tedious and bored with reading the editor’s private correspondence one night, they descended to the machine room to inspect the printing presses. Apparently, the attraction of the start button was irresistible and “the presses burst into life with a great roar and started to print the first and only midnight edition of the Leicester Mercury.” By the time he had found out how to stop the machines an enormous reel of paper had broken under the strain, he was knee-deep in newsprint and the next day he got the sack.

He found his next job at the Northampton Chronicle & Echo, where it was said that they were always short of staff because they paid the lowest wages. It was here that he conceived the fictional character who would later become Squire Haggard. He recalled : 'Our weekly companion paper The Northampton Mercury and Herald boasted the oldest complete files in Europe, going back to 1720, and once a week it was my job to descend into the basement where they were kept, and make an extract for the feature '200 Years Ago'. The old files were fascinating and frequently the chief reporter would have to send someone down to dig me out and return me to work. The thing that struck me was how dismal the old news was. It consisted largely of lists of deaths from such outlandish diseases as 'griping of the guts', news of disasters at home and abroad, executions and outbreaks of Plague.'

He was called up and conscripted into a tank corps and then the Education Corps in the Army at the tale-end of the Second World War in 1945 and after serving for two years returned for a brief spell at the Chronicle, where he still nurtured ambitions to write the great novel and made further incursions into amateur theatre which gave him a taste for Shakespearean pastiche.

Working as a 'scout,' he found it was "something of a celebrity in a rugby-mad town like Northampton and it was heady stuff at the tender age of 21." He recalled that the "Saints were an extraordinary bunch. They were a great club side full of England internationals and big names in their own right yet off the field" and  “I conducted my first post-match interview with the captain Don White in the shower, fully clothed, after he dragged me under when I ventured into the changing room. I didn’t bat an eyelid which rather impressed Don I fancy."

In 1950, he became a sub-editor on the Birmingham Gazette, where he also reported on rugby matches and three years later
moved to London and Fleet Street with the offer of a job on The Star, then one of a trio of London evening papers which had seen better days having started life in 1788 under its original title 'Star and Evening Advertiser' and was the first daily evening newspaper in the world. He left in 1957 and it closed three years later.

Michael indulged his passion for the theatre by acting in productions at the Questors Theatre in Ealing from 1953 which he recalled 59 years later in 2012 :

At the age of 28, he went freelance to write documentary features for the new Rediffusion television service. In addition, part-time work on the sports desk of 'The Observer' helped to build his reputation as a reporter who could enliven the account of an otherwise dull match with a few laughs at the expense of the players. It all started in a fit of temper when he was outraged by a sub-editor's snooty dismissal of works 'team rugby' and carried his anger into a pub diatribe directed at then Sports Editor, Chris Brasher, about the paper's coverage : "It's all Harlequins and Twickers and Old Whitgiftians and this dear old game of ours, and all that rubbish. Why don't you give some space to the real rugby, the sort played by ordinary blokes like me".

What he meant by 'real rugby' was "that great mish-mash in most of our teams. Varsity types, farmers, tradesmen, impoverished journalists, lawyers, butchers, doctors, bus conductors. Some were very decent players who couldn’t be bothered to train and most of us were cowards. I used to quake with fear before most matches and cringe at the size and apparent Olympian fitness of the opposition as they ran out. In all honesty the first couple of pints after the game were usually to celebrate my survival."

His subsequent 'The Art of Coarse Rugby,' published by Hutchinson in 1960, offered tips like : 'Never take a penalty with a cigarette in your mouth. Always hand it to the referee. These little courtesies distinguish the gentleman.'  It was intended to to go with a republication of 'The Art of Coarse Cricket' by Spike Hughes, who in turn had intended the title as a reference to 'coarse fishing' a term which originated in the 1800s when fishing was a recreational sport for the gentry who angled for game fish - salmon and trout, as opposed to other fish, which did not make as good eating and were disdained as 'coarse fish.'

He got to the heart of the book's 'coarse philosophy ' when he said : “It was a very British, its only ever appeared in English actually and I seriously doubt if the French for example would ever ‘get’ the ‘coarse’ philosophy at all. Essentially it was – is – about losing and being rubbish and incompetent while aspiring to such much more and I suspect only us Brits find that gentle egopricking genuinely funny."

Michael, in his own rugby playing days had joined Leicester ATC, Leicester Harlequins, Leicester Thursday, Stoneygate, Old Wyggesdonians, East Midlands Wanderers, Northampton Wanderers, Birmingham Press XV, Ealing and Lyons Sunday XV. Recalling Scottish full-back Tommy Gray, who played for the Saints he said : "He enjoyed his smokes and every Saturday, last man out of the changing room, he would stub his smouldering fag out on the tunnel as he ran onto the field. It somehow connected him very directly with the rugby I played.”

In 1963 at the age of 36, he published his fictionalised memoir, 'Don’t Print My Name Upside Down,' which was largely based on his early days in journalism at the Chronicle and Stanley Worker, the paper's long-serving chief sub-editor, was so proud of references to him in the book that he kept a copy in his desk drawer to peruse with quiet satisfaction during rare lulls in his working day.

Pursuing his successful coarse formula he published  'The Art of Coarse Sailing' in the same year and 'Coarse Acting' in 1964, inspired by his experiences at the Questors Theatre, in which he described a coarse actor as : 'one who can remember his lines, but not the order in which they come. An amateur. One who performs in Church Halls. Often the scenery will fall down. Sometimes the Church Hall may fall down. Invariably his tights will fall down. He will usually be playing three parts – Messenger, 2nd Clown, an Attendant Lord. His aim is to upstage the rest of the cast. His hope is to be dead by Act II so that he can spend the rest of his time in the bar. His problems? Everyone else connected with the production.'

In 1975 he returned to his dissolute, eighteenth century Squire Haggard, whose fictitious journal had first appeared in the Echo and re-emerged in the 1960s as part of his 'Peter Simple' column in The Daily Telegraph. In that year he published 'Squire Haggard's Journal' which began :
'Sept. 16, 1777: Rain. Amos Bindweed d. from Putrefaction of the Tripes. Jas. Soaper hanged for stealg. a nail. Shot unusually large poacher in a.m.  Because of the wet weather my Rheumaticks are so bad I was unable to have my usual whore yesterday. As she insists on payment in advance my servant Grunge had her instead, rather than waste threepence. This distressed me not a little as it was my favourite. Perverted Polly of Lower Sodmire. For dinner ate a rook pie and some pigs' cheek, together with a pease puddg. My portion of the puddg. appeared to be bad so I gave what remained to my wife Tib and was forced to expunge the taste with a quart of claret, item: To purgatives, £0.0.2d .'

In 1977 he saw his 'The Art of Coarse Moving' adapted for tv by Barry Took and become  the 8-part BBC series : 'A Roof over My Head' with the King of Whitehall farce Brian Rix.

He then took 'The Coarse Acting Show' to the 1977 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and 'The Coarse Acting Show 2' to the 1979 Fringe in which professional actors gave their worst in rehashed classics such as 'The Cherry Sisters' and, in homage to Beckett, 'Last Call for Breakfast' and in same year the one act plays reached the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End. In 1984 the Questors Theatre performed the 'Third Great Coarse Acting Show' and in 1988 took 'Coarse Acting Strikes Back' to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

In 1981 he returned to history with the publication of 'Tonight, Josephine : And Other Undiscovered Letters' amusing and imaginary, written by historical figures and ventured to autobiography in 1988 with : 'The Boy Who Shot Down an Airship' containing his 1940s reminiscences of his National Service experience.

In 1990 came 'Nobody Hurt in Small Earthquake,' about his post war journalist and sub-editor experiences in Northampton, Birmingham and London and in which he, movingly, described the moment when they switched the teleprinters off on the day when the News Chronicle went bust as :  'It was as if a heart had stopped beating.' In the same year he saw 'Squire Haggard' adapted for Yorkshire Television and run for two series, based on his character and played by Keith Barron and written Eric Chappell, it centred on the Squire's attempts to restore the family's fortunes by any means necessary.

In 1985 the Questors Theatre produced its first Carol Concert and Michael was subsequently commissioned by Tim Godfrey to produce 'Coarse Carols' : 'The Pigge's Ear,' a low-budget carol for choirs which can't afford to do the 'Boar's Head Carol' and 'The Merry Sage and Onion,' a genuinely meaningless carol to provide an alternative to 'The Holly and the Ivy.' 

Always famous for his zany and slightly eccentric behaviour, when he appeared on an Eamonn Andrews’s chat show to plug one of his humorous 'The Art of Coarse Golf', he wielded a seven iron in the studio to demonstrate how not to swing the club and, in his excitement, accidentally let go. It missed the head of Spike Milligan, another of the guests, by a matter of inches and, visibly shaken, the comedian barely spoke another word for the rest of the show.

His involvement with The Questors, the biggest amateur dramatics troupe in Europe continued and in 2012 he wrote 'Coarse Shakespeare' for the Theatre : "There's All's Well That Ends As You Like It' which I wrote to go to the Edinburgh Fringe in 1977 and that's a Shakespearean comedy, as you know, like all the best Shakespearean comedies it's totally unfunny to a modern audience. The second one is Henry X, Part 7, which is a real history take-off and the third is Julius and Cleopatra. A Roman story with Cleopatra complete with snake dying in the end."

In 2014 at the age of 87 he made a final plea : 

“I trust ‘coarse rugby’ is still alive and kicking – very badly no doubt – on various muddy wastes around the country. Hopefully there are some sides where having 15 players is still considered something of a luxury. Please tell me this is so. I would be interested to hear from the modern-day keepers of the flame."

Michael didn't get to write his great novel, but he did see 'Coarse Rugby' go through 25 reprints and sell 250,000 copies.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to an old dancing Philosopher called Roger Scruton

Roger, who teaches aesthetics to graduate students at Oxford and has written more than 40 books, is 74 years old today. He  still likes to dance, however, in his collection of essays entitled 'Confessions of a Heretic,' he took issue with the dancing witnessed in the nation’s clubs and pubs, in which participants “jerk on to the floor in obedience to the puppet master at the desk.”

In his essay, 'Dancing Properly', he commented that dancers today 'are dancing at each other. The difference between ‘at’ and ‘with’ is one of the deepest psychological differences we know. It is exemplified in all our encounters with other people – notably in conversation and in sexual gambits … The decay of manners that we have seen in recent times is to a large extent a result of the loss of withness and the rise of atness in its stead. Rudeness, obscenity, the ‘in your face’ manners of the new TV presenter – all these are ways of being ‘at’ other people. Courtesy, manners, negotiation and deference are, by contrast, ways of being with.'

It is hard to fault this analysis and those old Brits born before, or just after, the middle of the last century, would recognise the 'withness' society into which they were born has diminished over the years, to the extent they find themselves at odds with young people across the whole spectrum of social interchange in 'atness' Britain.

Although he confessed that he was “no good at it,” Roger still loves dancing and he looks back nostalgically to the tactile dances of his youth in the early 1960s where "physical contact was permitted in a way that it wasn’t in everyday life. The electricity of physical contact has gone therefore from young people’s lives. For us ageds, I can remember the tingle in your fingertips when you touched a girl’s body anywhere. That’s part of it, but also that touching as a courtesy has gone." It has been replaced by the solitary nature of much modern dancing.

A little conservative in his dancing tastes : "I love Viennese waltzes and polkas, and especially c√®ilidhs and old-fashioned formation dancing,” Roger also admitted that : “I like rock’n’roll too." In the early days of rock, he claims, dance steps required a partner and this allowed couples to “touch, swing around each other, move together in an attempt to recapture withness.” 
All this was confirmed by British Path√© in 1961.

Roger believes a good example of music to dance “properly” to, would be Elvis Presley's 'Heartbreak Hotel', in which the rhythm is generated by the melodic line and the voice: “There is no violent drumming, no amplified bass, none of the devices which – I am tempted to say – substitute for rhythm in so much contemporary pop. This withness is felt by the listener as an urge to dance, an urge to look around for the person whose hand could be taken and who could be led on to the floor.”

Roger also believes that this was so 'with the pop music in the days immediately following rock ’n’ roll – music like that of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead and a hundred others, which is now widely listened to, but rarely danced to, precisely because it contains a memory of real dancing. Its very melodiousness ensures that it will be banished from the disk jockey’s computer table, and replaced by a grotesque caricature of music in which rhythm is replaced by beat and melody by senseless repetition.'

Roger has kindly given us the philosophical arguments underpinning his thesis about dancing in his essay, 'The Lost Love of Dancing.'

Monday, 26 February 2018

Britain is no country for the poor boys today who will become the shorter-lived old men of tomorrow

Britain in 1901
In the sunset of the Victorian period, there was a big disparity between the life expectancy of old men living in the wealthiest neighbourhoods as opposed to the poorest.

Britain in 2001
New research from the Longevity Science Panel has shown, once again, life expectancy diverging between England’s wealthiest and poorest neighbourhoods and this widening gap applies to boys born today and men already in older age. In 2001 a boy born in one of the most advantaged 20% of neighbourhoods could expect to outlive his counterpart in the least advantaged 20% by 7.2 years. By 2015 the gap had widened to 8.4 years.

Commenting on the research, LSP’s Dame Karen Dunnell said : “Dying earlier if you are poor is the most unfair outcome of all. So we should all be concerned about the growing divergence in rich-poor life expectancy. To reduce the risk of further widening, we need better understanding of the precise causes, followed by co-ordinated policy initiatives across health, work, welfare, pension and housing to improve outcomes for all.”

Co-author, Professor Steve Haberman, Professor of Actuarial Sciences, Cass Business School said :
“Our main finding is that the socioeconomic gap in life expectancy in England has widened over the last 15 years. This has happened despite life expectancy increasing across all sections of the population - it is clear that some groups are being left behind. As the population ages, these inequalities are likely to increase further. To solve this problem, we will need better coordinated policies involving central and local government, civil society and the private sector”.

Britain in 2018
A country where social progress has gone into reverse and widening disparities in wealth today will be reflected in widening lengths of longevity tomorrow. 

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Britain, after all these years, still no country for old men who came as boys from the Commonwealth

Renford McIntyre is 64 years old and came to Britain from Jamaica fifty years ago, when he was 14 years old to join his mother, who had come over to become a nurse and his father, who was working as a crane driver. During that fifty years he didn't apply for British citizenship and has now been told, under the new draconian rules being applied to immigrants by the Home Office, that he isn't permitted to either work or is eligible for any government support. In fact, he is one of a growing band of largely invisible old men and women being told they are here illegally, who arrived in Britain as children from Commonwealth countries more than half a century ago and grew up here believing themselves to be British, only to discover recently, in a newly hardened immigration climate, that they are without the necessary papers and unable to prove their right to be here.

Renford said : "I’ve worked night and day, I’ve paid into the kitty – now no one wants to help me" he is referring to the fact that he has spent 35 years working and paying taxes as a tool setter, a delivery man in the meat industry and a National Health Service  driver." For the past year, he has been homeless, mostly sleeping on a sofa in an unheated industrial unit in Dudle. With no shower and nowhere to cook, he has to visit friends if he wants to eat hot food or wash. “It’s an appalling place to live. I’m a proud man; I’m embarrassed at my age to be living like this.” 

Back in 2014, a routine request from his last employers to update paperwork revealed that he didn’t have a passport and had never naturalised in Britain and as a consequence he was given the sack. Unable to find new work without papers, he became depressed and then homeless. Dudley council said he was not eligible for emergency housing because he had no right to be in the country and for the same reason he has been told he cannot sign on for state benefits.

With the support of the 'Refugee and Migrant Centre' in Wolverhampton, Renford gathered together paperwork showing 35 years of National Insurance contributions, but the Home Office has returned his application, requesting further evidence. “It makes me so angry. I’ve always worked. I’m a grafter. I can’t explain how bad it makes me feel.” 

Hubert Howard is 61 and travelled to Britain from Jamaica with his mother fifty-eight years ago, when he was three and has never lived anywhere else. His troubles began in 2005. His mother returned to Jamaica when she retired and Howard’s problems emerged when he wanted to visit her urgently when she became ill in that year. He applied for a passport, but his application was rejected because he had never naturalised. He hadn’t known that this was necessary and as a consequence his mother died without him seeing her in 2006.

His problems multiplied when Theresa May, as Home Secretary, announced the introduction of a “really hostile environment” for illegal immigrants in 2012. His employers at the time were the Peabody Trust and he recalled : “Peabody wanted to see the passport that I came in with, but my mum had taken it. Immigration was swooping all over the workplace. My employers were told by the Home Office that they had to get rid of me, otherwise they would get fined. All I needed was for the Home Office to say I was legal, but they said I was an overstayer and I didn’t have status. I tried to argue they were wrong. I left my job in 2012.”

Before he was fired Hubert had been a trusted and highly regarded employee who had been with them for a decade. He found that the years he spent working as a maintenance worker for British Rail, a plumber and later as a senior caretaker for the housing association, and, like Renford,  the tax he had paid over 35 years of working life, counted for nothing.

Older men and women like Renford and Hubert both have a legal right to stay in Britain because the 1971 Immigration Act gave people who had already settled in Britain indefinite leave to remain, but they have struggled to gather enough documents to convince the Home Office that they arrived before the cut-off point.

As Hubert said : “They basically messed up my life. I had a steady job. They took my job away, stating quite clearly I had no status in this country. It broke my heart losing my job with Peabody. It was the best job I was ever in. When my mum passed away, I wasn’t there, and I still have not been at her graveside."

The Jamaican High Commissioner, Seth George Ramocan, said about others grappling with similar difficulties : “We don’t know how many there are, primarily because they are unaware of their status, or lack of it. Most believe that they are OK, that they are British. People are thrown into crisis when they find out. When you are in this situation you cannot get a job, health care, a place to live. It locks you out of the system.” 

Guy Hewitt, the Barbados High Commissioner in London said : “This is affecting people who came and gave a lifetime of service at a time when the UK was calling for workers and migrants, they came because they were encouraged to come here to help build post-World War II Britain and build it into the multicultural place that it is now. These are not people who tried to take advantage of the system. We need to find a compassionate mechanism for resolving this." 

He said it was difficult for vulnerable, elderly residents to bring together the required evidence : “It is really for many a very traumatic process. Often, the family and friends who could vouch for them are dead. It is a tragic situation because technically the Home Office has the right to deport anyone they have reason to believe has not been granted the right to reside here. Missions from the regions are working with the Home Office to avoid people being forcibly removed back to islands they don’t recognise.”

High Commissioners of Commonwealth countries are clearly concerned about the number of elderly former Commonwealth citizens, who have been here since childhood, facing similar problems and have called on the British Government to show "more compassion."

New evidence of harsh treatment by the Home Office emerged this week when officials said they “now accepted” that Anthony Bryan, 60, who has spent five weeks in immigration detention centres, was in fact “lawfully present in the UK”. Anthony, a grandfather who has lived in Britain for 52 years, has had two spells in detention and was booked last November on a flight to Jamaica, a country he left in 1965, when he was 8 years old and has not visited since. A decorator, he lost his job in 2015 because, like Hubert, he was unable to prove he was not an 'illegal worker', and struggled to convince the Home Office of his right to be Britain until the Guardian highlighted his case last year.

Anthony interviewed on Channel 4 News :

Anthony said he was relieved but angry at his treatment, which has left him heavily in debt because he was prevented from working for almost three years :

“I told them I was eight years old when I arrived here, but nobody believed; they told me I was an illegal immigrant and a criminal. They locked me up unlawfully. It was very stressful. It has been a nightmare.”