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Windrush: Balvin reveals mental pain of residency fight

Victim of immigration scandal who was left sleeping rough reflects on battle to prove he belongs here

19 July, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Balvin Marshall lost his job and flat in the Windrush crackdown

IT’S been nearly a year since Balvin Marshall had a place he could call his own home again.

The 65-year-old was one of the first victims of the government’s Windrush immigration crackdown while working as a road sweeper in Islington. The battle to prove who he was and why he belonged in this country would have a devastating impact on his life.

After months without income, he lost his flat and spent seven years homeless; all this before the scale of the scandal was truly known.

He had been told that his birth certificate and National Insurance number were not enough to prove his residency – despite first moving to London from Jamaica as long ago as 1972.

As a result, he then slept in and out of a warehouse in Tottenham or with family, unable to claim benefits.

When the difficulties faced by people who had come to the United Kingdom from the Caribbean started to become national news and the way families who had originally been encouraged to come to this country to work hit the headlines, Balvin reached out to the Tribune. We had first reported on his case back in 2011.

Within weeks, his residency was confirmed and he was put into council housing.

The Home Office has since made interim payments, including for some furniture, as his solicitors prepare a case for compensation.

The mental impact of what happened, however, still lingers within Balvin.

Reflecting on his case this week, he said: “I think I’ve been trying to accept [what happened] for the longest of times. It takes a while to realise that it’s over to that degree but it takes a while to realise it’s really over. Sometimes you think it’s over but for some reason a moment will come where you will forget it’s over.”

Only a few weeks ago he woke up at his Tottenham home thinking he could not believe he was there in his own bed.

“And nobody ain’t going to disturb me or trouble me,” the father of five grown-up children said.

“I’m thinking ‘do I really have a place?’ That just comes in my mind. I wasn’t aware that I had a place for a moment, for a few seconds.”

Balvin said he is now a “bit wary” about anything to do with money and power.

The permanent secretary to the Home Office, Sir Philip Rutnam, said this month how compensation payments were being made, over a year since the scandal was first revealed by The Guardian.

In a ministerial statement, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The government deeply regrets what has happened to some members of the Windrush generation and when I became Home Secretary I made it clear that responding to this was a priority. The compensation scheme I launched in April is a key part of this response.

“The compensation scheme has been open to receive claims since April 2019 and the Home Office is now in a position to start making payments.

“I am committed to providing members of the Windrush generation with assurance that they will be appropriately and promptly compensated where it is shown that they have been disadvantaged by historical government policy.”


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