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Town Hall leader: ‘Our fight for the Windrush generation’

Vow by leader of Islington Council under fire over sacking of school worker, as Islington MP insists she has done 'everything possible' to help Windrush immigration cases

20 April, 2018 — By Emily Finch, Helen Chapman

Judy Griffith (left): ‘I’ve always had a right to be here’. Michael Braithwaite (right) lost his school job two years ago

TOWN Hall leader Richard Watts this week put “on hold” any punitive actions against the immigration status of thousands of council employees and tenants.

Cllr Watts took this step as the scandal deepened over “Windrush citizens”, with Islington South MP Emily Thornberry revealing she has helped three residents with their immigration cases since 2014.

But Cllr Watts defended his staff who “advised” a client – a Gospel Oak school – who dismissed popular teaching assistant Michael Braithwaite following warnings from the government.

He said: “As soon as the government looked likely to U-turn on the Windrush issue we put on hold anything like this [what happened to Mr Braithwaite] across all the council’s services. Anyone in Islington who has had this happen to them can write to me directly and I will try to help them get the recompense they deserve from the government.”

Cllr Watts waded into the Windrush debate as Prime Minister Theresa May apologised to Commonwealth leaders on Tuesday for the anxiety caused to the children of Commonwealth citizens in Britain after they faced deportation even though they were legally allowed to live and work here.

The council leader would not comment on a case we reported on last month of a former Archway care worker who was threatened with eviction from her Islington Council-owned home as she battled to prove she was entitled to live and work in Britain. Judy Griffith, 63, had moved from Barbados to Britain more than 50 years ago after her parents answered an advert for bus drivers during a post-war move to recruit for workers.

Town Hall leader Richard Watts

Ms Griffith could not work without a residence permit so fell into rent arrears, she said. She said last month: “The council knew I was struggling, but they are pressuring me and harassing me. You’d think they’d give me some leeway.”

Cllr Watts said council workers were “simply doing their jobs” when dealing with these individuals.

A teaching assistant at a Camden primary school was dismissed by the school on advice of Islington Council who provided HR support and employment legal advice to the school. It took more than two years for Michael Braithwaite, 66, a former pupil at City and Islington College, to receive his residence card and only after media attention.

He had lived in this country since moving from Barbados with his family aged nine in 1961.

Cllr Watts said: “The problems caused for local residents are a result of the 2014 Act passed by Tory and Lib Dem MPs. If anyone is to be investigated here it should be the then Home Secretary, now the Prime Minister.

“Labour councillors strongly support Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to guarantee the rights of the Windrush generation. We will raise cases with the government and fight for anyone affected to receive the compensation from the government they deserve.”

He said he had spoken to senior officers and the chief executive earlier in the week on how to help these residents and added: “We try to protect local residents from these government policies through political campaigning, although we try to implement the policies we disagree with in a sensitive way as possible. It’s self-defeating for the council to break the law – all it would do is allow the government to take over key council services and impose more cuts.”

MP: I’ve done everything possible to help people

Emily Thornberry

ISLINGTON South Labour MP Emily Thornberry said she did “everything possible” to help Windrush immigration cases.

Ms Thornberry revealed yesterday how she was involved in three constituents’ cases stretching as far back as 2014.

She helped in the case of a man who came from Jamaica and had indefinite leave to remain. But he lost the document that stated this and then was suspended from his job.

After legal proceed­ings were started, the government then backed down.

One woman approached her office recently, asking for help. She had been here more than 40 years, arriving when she was a teenager.

Ms Thornberry has taken on another case which is ongoing.

Asked how Ms Thornberry has helped, her spokes­woman said yesterday she couldn’t discuss how cases were handled without obtaining consent from the individual. She added: “Emily knows she did everything possible in each case, even if not every one could be satisfactorily resolved.”

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