Felix was at risk of homelessness when he was referred to St Mungo’s in 2015. Despite living in the UK for 51 years he had little identification. With the help of St Mungo’s he was finally granted a British passport as a child of Windrush. This is his story.
I’d never seen snow before!
Landing in Southampton in 1968, at the age of 12, I was full of hopes and dreams for my future. Little did I know it would take more than 50 years to get a British passport.
I didn’t like it at first because it was two days before Christmas and it was snowing and very cold. I’d never seen snow before. I thought, “what’s going on?!” I just wanted to go back home.
I was born in St Lucia and my parents had come here a few years earlier. They were part of the Windrush generation who were invited to the UK from Caribbean countries because of labour shortages after the War.
I had to leave my job when I couldn’t prove my right to work
I lived with my family in North West London. I left school at 16 and got a job in a removal firm where I was paid in cash. I had various jobs over the years including, dry cleaning, retail and removals.
No one ever asked about my right to work in the UK. I only had a British territories passport with my childhood photo which was no longer valid but I did have a National Insurance number.
A few years ago, I started work in a dry cleaners where I was asked to prove my right to work in the UK, but I couldn’t so I had to leave. They held the job open but by the time I got some ID they didn’t have any vacancies.
I felt like I was nothing and nobody, I didn’t exist
I was determined to get a British passport as I’d been here most of my life. I wanted a passport before I passed away.
I wanted to belong here. I was also desperate to visit St Lucia, but if I’d gone I wouldn’t have got back into the UK.
I missed my brother’s wedding, family funerals and other important events that I’ll never get back. I felt I had no self-respect or self-worth – that I was nothing and nobody. There were no records for me, as if I didn’t exist.
St Mungo’s helped me get citizenship and a British passport
When I first came into contact with St Mungo’s through the Housing Support Team, I was struggling to find a job and was at risk of homelessness. Due to the so called “bedroom tax” my benefit had been cut by 25%.
My case worker Yusuf at St Mungo’s searched the national archives in the UK but found nothing. As St Lucia was no longer part of the British territories it was hard. He wrote to St Lucia national archives and eventually found my birth certificate and also my Dad’s which made things a lot easier.
Yusuf also contacted the MP, Chuka Umunna, who wrote to the Home Office to see if I could apply for a residence permit. After a lot of going backwards and forwards, they said that as I’d been living in the UK since 1968 I should have automatically have been granted indefinite leave to remain.
That was a huge step forward. But it took another six months to get the ID.
I was rushed to hospital due to the stress
Unfortunately I collapsed, had a fit and was rushed to hospital. I was subsequently diagnosed with diabetes and epilepsy. I developed complications due to the diabetes and scarring to my left eye which were brought on by stress and high blood pressure. I’m now permanently reliant on daily medication.
Child of Windrush
By then, the Windrush scandal was making the headlines. I was told to apply to the Commonwealth task force at the Home Office to see if I could be granted British citizenship as a child of Windrush. We did that, and it was fairly straightforward which was a relief after years of fighting to be recognised.
The whole process took over three years. We had to apply for a St Lucia passport, indefinite leave to remain in the UK, British citizenship and finally a UK passport. St Mungo’s handled it all, wrote all the letters for me, persevered when we hit a brick wall.
Yusuf didn’t give up on me. He enrolled me in skills classes and helped me through the entire journey.
I had my citizenship ceremony on 12 September 2018 in front of the Mayor of Lambeth. My daughter came along and everyone was very proud when I swore my oath. A week later we applied for the passport and paid about £100. It was the best £100 I’ve ever spent.
It came a few weeks later. I was finally a proper British citizen at the age of 64! As soon as I got it, I was so excited and went for a pint to celebrate. I never thought the day would come.
I finally feel like a real human being and that I’m recognised by the community. Without St Mungo’s help and support I could never have done it. My daughter is over the moon and I’ll die a happy man.
Our 50 year history is filled with some extraordinary people. To mark our anniversary, we will be profiling 50 Lives throughout 2019 – a snapshot of those who have played their part in our story. You can read the stories on our website at www.mungos.org/50-lives.