Welwyn Garden City veteran reflects on still being stuck in immigration limbo
PUBLISHED: 18:12 14 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:48 15 June 2020
A Welwyn Garden City veteran is still stuck in immigration limbo after being forced to leave the British Army Reserve Forces in 2014.
Dominican national Trevor Rene believes the immigration rules are arbitrary as he held an overseas British passport in 1969, before the former sugar plantation – which used slaves bought by British settlers up until 1833 – won its freedom in 1978.
Mr Rene, whose wife is British, cannot understand why he is being treated so differently now. As he must continue waiting to see if he will be allowed to remain in the UK, after he was forcibly discharged from the army in 2014.
“I’m just waiting as before,” he said.
He has exhausted the process of applying through the Windrush Scheme, which helped some of his family members obtain citizenship, and has been encouraged by Home Secretary Priti Patel to obtain a qualified immigration adviser.
In reply to a letter written to his MP Grant Shapps raising his case, Ms Patel also thanked him “for his valuable service” to the UK but left out that Mr Rene would have to pay for an adviser as he does not qualify for legal aid.
The process of continuing applications, lawyer and court fees has already cost him more than £7,000. And as he is barred from working under hostile environment policies, his wife has to support him, and she does not have the funds for further applications.
“I can’t currently work, or use NHS services. I’m stuck,” said Mr Rene.
He also had his liberty taken away, after being detained at a detention centre in Oxfordshire for 17 days in 2016, but points out that places like this are currently closed due to coronavirus.
“They want me to go back, when I have a wife here. This is discriminatory and racist.”
He added: “I’m not going anywhere.”
Mr Rene squarely puts the blame at the feet of the Conservative government and their policies on immigration.
In response, Mr Shapps said this case is an “unfortunate one” and he does “sympathise with Trevor and his family”.
He explained: “Regarding the law, there’s obviously been a recent public discussion about visa fees for servicemen and their families, and I certainly made my views on the issue known to the minister at the time, but I think our wider rules on Leave to Remain for those who have recently come here have generally struck the right balance.”
The hostile environment policies, which began under Labour with a drive to seek out illegal immigrants at work, were ramped up under the Conservative administration. They are being investigated since Friday by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
David Isaac, chair of the EHRC, said: “The Windrush scandal and hostile environment policies have cast a shadow across the UK and its values. We are working with the Home Office to determine what must change so that this shameful period of our history is not repeated.”
A Home Office spokesman told Welwyn Hatfield Times in 2019: “In December 2018, Mr Rene submitted an application under the Windrush Scheme which was considered by the taskforce.
“It was decided that he did not qualify as he entered the UK as a visitor when he was 39, and the application was refused in 2019.”
Mr Shapps added: “From my understanding though, the issue in this instance isn’t with the immigration rules themselves, as they did provide him with a path to further residency here when his leave was initially expiring.
“Rather it appears to be with the way in which Trevor has subsequently sought to remain here and with the details of his various applications.”
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