At a citizenship ceremony at Oakwood House, Oakwood Park, Maidstone, on Monday 13 March, Kent Law Clinic client Steve, originally from the USA, was granted British citizenship.
But this was no ordinary grant of citizenship. Steve had lost his job, lost his home, was forced into a form of bankruptcy, and had been at risk of being deported back to the US, which he had left at the age of 1 year, in 1966.
Steve was subjected to similar sanctions to those experienced by victims of the ‘Windrush scandal’ – a political scandal in which thousands of people who had lived in the UK for many years as citizens or with indefinite leave to remain (‘settlement’) were suddenly deemed to be illegal immigrants, suddenly losing their rights to work or claim benefits and finding themselves in great jeopardy.
In 2018, with the help of Kent Law Clinic – a partnership between students, academics, solicitors and barristers – Steve was able to show that he had been living and working in the UK since 1966, and was eventually provided with documents confirming his rights.
The Clinic had also made a formal complaint against the Home Office, which had been upheld, and recommended an application for compensation once the formal compensation scheme opened. However, when the compensation scheme opened, Steve could not meet the very strict requirement about evidence imposed by the Home Office.
The Clinic then advised an application to the ‘fast-track application’ for citizenship for ‘Windrush’ victims. A Home Office caseworker contacted Steve in October 2021 to tell him that a grant of citizenship had been recommended, and that he should receive a decision within a week. But a whole year passed, and it took the Clinic three separate threats of court proceedings to get the Home Office to issue the decision they had made in 2021.
Meanwhile, after public criticism of the Windrush Compensation Scheme, the Home Office had agreed to revise the strict requirements for evidence, and also announced that an interim payment of £10,000 would be offered to anyone whose claim met certain minimum standards, while further examination of their claim would proceed.
Assisted by law student Oskar Smith, the Kent Law Clinic submitted Steve’s claim for compensation, which has resulted in a £10,000 payment, with potentially more to come, for their client.
Sheona York, Clinic Solicitor at the Kent Law Clinic, said: ‘Steve is delighted of course, but is clear that no one should suffer as he did.’
Kent Law Clinic is part of Kent Law School. Its mission is to support people that live and work in Kent with a free public service, which provides legal advice and representation to those unable to afford it. In 2018, the Kent Law Society awarded the Clinic the 200th Anniversary Award for its significant contribution to the development and practice of law within Kent.