The Home Office made repeated errors that caused a man who had lived in the UK for more than 50 years to be classified as an illegal immigrant and threatened with arrest, prison and forcible removal, the parliamentary ombudsman has found.
The latest critical official report on the department’s handling of the Windrush scandal detailed how former HGV driver Rupert Everett died in 2019, aged 74, without having received an apology or compensation from the government.
His daughters said he was distressed to have his passport confiscated by immigration officials in 2016, and was terrified at the prospect of being forcibly returned to Jamaica, a country he had visited only twice since leaving in 1962, aged 19.
Ombudsman Rob Behrens, who was asked to investigate the case after attempts to complain through the official complaints mechanism failed, said: “A well-loved father and grandfather spent the last years of his life in severe depression and anxiety because he was being wrongfully pursued and threatened by Immigration Enforcement.
“UK Visas and Immigration failed to adhere to its own standards. It should acknowledge the distress it has caused and make sure cases like this are not repeated.”
Everett’s daughter, Fiona, said her father became withdrawn and isolated after the Home Office told him he was an immigration offender. “We haven’t had an explanation or an apology. It wasn’t one person that messed up, it was five departments,” she said.
“My father was looking forward to spending more time with his family. Instead, he was told that he was going to be thrown out of this country. He changed from being an outgoing family man to becoming depressed and isolating himself from his family. I am pleased that the ombudsman’s investigation has found that my father was treated appallingly by the Home Office, but am desolated that he is not alive to read the report.”
Sukhdeep Singh, caseworker at the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, who has helped more than 40 Windrush victims, said this was one of the worst cases he had encountered because Everett had clear documentary proof of his right to be in the UK, but officials ignored the evidence.
Everett was failed by five Home Office units: the north-west immigration enforcement department, the unit responsible for withdrawing driving licences, the department responsible for issuing biometric cards, the nationality department and the complaints section, he said. “The Home Office showed a complete lack of care about him as an individual,” he said.
The parliamentary and health service ombudsman provides an independent complaint handling service for grievances that have not been resolved by UK government departments. The report concluded that the immigration enforcement officials should not have told Everett that he was in the UK illegally, and missed opportunities to put things right.
“It is particularly sad that the last years of [Everett’s] life were characterised by a distressing struggle to validate his right to remain in a country he had the right to live in. The injustice to him caused by the maladministration we have identified was extremely serious,” the report states.
It recommends that the Home Office improve its complaints handling within its immigration enforcement department and calls on the department to apologise and make a financial remedy to the family.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The victims of the Windrush scandal faced appalling treatment and we are determined to right these wrongs. We are considering the ombudsman’s findings and offer our sincere condolences to Mr Everett’s loved ones for their loss.”