Paulette Wilson became a prominent figure in the Windrush scandal after being detained by the Home Office.
Paulette Wilson left Jamaica in the hope of a better life when she was only 10. Having spent most of her life in the UK, she worked as a carer and a chef at the House of Commons. Paulette was part of the Windrush generation, which includes people from the Caribbean who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971. In 1971, they were given indefinite leave to remain in the country. In 2016, she received a letter from the Home Office stating that she was an illegal immigrant.
Since 2014, 50,000 people from the Windrush generation have faced the risk of deportation. This came after a change of rules by the Home Office, which required citizens to prove their resident status before accessing services like the NHS.
Paulette Wilson was arrested and detained: first at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, then at Heathrow. It was only at the last minute that MP Emma Reynolds and the Refugee Migrant Centre in Wolverhampton managed to prevent her deportation.
Just over a month ago, Wilson presented a petition to Downing Street, calling on the Government to deliver justice to those, like herself, who were affected by the Windrush Scandal. Paulette Wilson was an activist who dedicated the last years of her life to justice for those who had been wronged. Last year, Wilson had told the BBC that since she had been detained, “[she] couldn’t sleep, it was terrible. It’s been like that since I came out. I still can’t eat like I used to.” Many have condemned the treatment she received from the Home Office, pointing out that it had taken a toll on her mental health.
Sadly, Paulette Wilson is not the only Windrush victim to have passed away while fighting for compensation. Dexter Bristol, for example, passed away after being denied access to healthcare services until he proved he was British. His mother said that the immigration stress had caused the fatal heart attack.
Sarah O’Connor is another example: she had lived legally in the UK for 51 years, and after being labelled an illegal immigrant at 51, she told the Guardian that the stress made her ill. She died at 57, on the verge of bankruptcy while fighting the Home Office on her immigrant status.
Judy Griffiths, 63, had accrued £7000 in rent debts fighting the Government after they had accused her of being an illegal immigrant. In 2018, it was reported that 11 people who had been wrongly deported had died, many without even receiving their compensation.
Wilson’s death and the trauma endured by many others remind us of the discrimination that is constantly inflicted on people of colour, but also how little their lives seem to matter. The recent events following the Windrush scandal emphasise this: whether it’s George Floyd, the disproportionate effect of coronavirus on BAME communities, or countless other incidents, the lives of Black and people of colour continue to matter less than their white counterparts. Racism is fatal for the many that endure it.
At JAN Trust, we are terribly saddened by the loss of Ms. Paulette Wilson, someone who dedicated her time and wellbeing to fighting a system that had wronged herself and so many other innocent people. JAN Trust works continuously to provide support to those who have been affected by racism and discrimination, and we will continue to do so.