Sarah O’Connor arrived in Britain from Jamaica in 1966 when she was just six years old. Like many of her generation, she’d been left in the care of her grandparents while her mother, young and unmarried, went to seek work in Britain.
After her mother married, settled in Wolverhampton and had three more children, they were finally reunited.
It would not be a happy ending and Sarah’s life turned out to be full of challenges. But she worked hard, embracing everything this country had to offer.
She married, had five children of her own and four grandchildren and, for the past 20 years, has lived happily in a neat end-of-terrace house in Dagenham, East London.
‘I’ve always thought of myself as British and I was very proud to be part of this country,’ Sarah, now 57, says. ‘Or I was.’
Last summer her world fell apart. In June, she lost her job as business sales assistant in a local computer shop where she’d worked for more than 16 years.
When she went to the Job Centre to sign on, she was told she wasn’t entitled to benefits. ‘I’m used to working. I’ve always worked,’ she says. ‘So when I was be told I wasn’t entitled to anything…’
The Windrush scandal has been branded a national disgrace and there are calls for Amber Rudd to resign over her handling of the crisis.
The Home Secretary conceded she did not know whether Caribbean migrants who came here in good faith after the Second World War had been wrongly removed.
In farcical scenes, ministers at first appeared to admit some had been ‘horrendously’ kicked out, then insisted they hadn’t, and then said that they didn’t know.
Miss Rudd faced a call to resign and was summoned to the Commons to apologise for the fiasco. Labour’s David Lammy told fellow MPs it was a ‘day of national shame’.
Campaigners insisted that at least one person had already been wrongly sent back to Jamaica.
It emerged at the weekend that Government officials had refused to meet Caribbean envoys to discuss the cases of those who came from the late 1940s to the 1970s to help rebuild post-war Britain.
Sarah O’Connor’s problem was that she did not have a valid British passport.
As a Windrush immigrant, one of the 500,000 people who left the West Indies between 1948 and 1970 to come to Britain, she had always been entitled to a passport. She had just never got round to applying for one.