September 20, 2020

Paulette Wilson: Windrush campaigner who faced deportation dies aged 64

Paulette Wilson
Image caption Paulette Wilson said she is a “survivor” and was now happy

A Windrush campaigner who was nearly deported despite having lived in the UK for nearly 50 years has died.

Paulette Wilson came to the UK as a child and was one of thousands of people affected by the Windrush scandal which made headlines in 2018.

She died aged 64 on Thursday morning, her daughter Natalie Barnes confirmed.

“She was an inspiration to many people. She was my heart and my soul and I loved her to pieces,” her daughter said in a statement.

Ms Wilson arrived in Telford from Jamaica in 1968 aged 10 – but in August 2015 her benefits were stopped and was later sent to a detention centre.

She was later told by the Home Office she could stay.

Speaking to the BBC about the experience last year, Ms Wilson said: “I couldn’t sleep. It was terrible. It’s been like that since I came out. I still can’t eat like I used to.”

‘Selfless and brave’

In a statement, Ms Wilson’s daughter Natalie Barnes said: “My mum was a fighter and she was ready to fight for anyone. She was an inspiration to many people. She was my heart and my soul and I loved her to pieces.

“She was widely loved and respected; her laugh was infectious and she loved to see people smile; she will be missed by us all.”

Many people have been paying tribute to her following her death.

Immigration lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie tweeted: “Saddened to hear of today’s death of Paulette Wilson who arrived in the UK in 1968, aged 10, but became a victim of the Windrush scandal – told she had no rights of residency, she was detained in an IRC.

“Paulette took on the fight for justice for others. May she rest in peace.”

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Media captionWindrush scandal: One year on

Zubaida Haque, the interim director of the think tank the Runnymede Trust, said it was “incredibly upsetting and sad”.

She said Ms Wilson was “one of the most selfless and bravest victims of the Windrush scandal”.

SNP MP Joanna Cherry expressed her condolences, and said Ms Wilson “fought back with incredible strength and campaigned for justice for all the victims” of the scandal.

Ms Wilson, who lived in Wolverhampton, was looked after by her grandparents in Wellington, Telford, when she first arrived in Britain.

She remained in the country all her life, never visited Jamaica, and had 34 years of National Insurance payments. She also had a British daughter and grandchild.

In October 2017, she was detained in the Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, where she was held for a week before being released.

The following year, she gave evidence to MPs about the scandal.

The Windrush scandal broke in 2018, when it emerged many children of Commonwealth citizens had been threatened with deportation.

Despite living and working in the UK for decades, many were told they were there illegally because of a lack of official paperwork.

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Media captionA look back at life when the Windrush generation arrived in the UK

The Windrush generation is the name given to those who arrived in UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries. In 1971, Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain.

After the scandal broke, the government apologised. Since then, reports and compensation schemes have been launched, but some people are concerned that not enough has been done.