Ipswich man from Windrush generation humiliated after being turned away at UK Airport
PUBLISHED: 07:03 02 May 2018 | UPDATED: 14:15 02 May 2018
A man from Ipswich has described his humiliation after being turned away at a UK airport for having insufficient documentation, despite living and working in the UK for 50 years.
Kenneth Flowers, a child of the Windrush generation, came to the UK in 1968 aged just 18. When his first crossed the border with his Jamaican passport, he was given no indication that he would have to apply for citizenship further down the line – and is now suffering the consequences decades later.
Mr Flowers and his wife, Sheila, were travelling to Ireland on April 3 when Ryanair staff at Stansted Airport rejected his passport just minutes before he was due to board the plane.
“We got to the airport and checked in,” Mrs Flowers said. “They looked at our passports and gave everything back to us, so we thought everything was ok.”
After having their passports checked a further two times, the couple headed to the departure lounge.
Mrs Flowers said: “They came and got our passports, took them up to the desk, then the next thing I knew they called Kenneth over and said you can’t go.”
The couple were told Mr Flowers needed an Irish visa to travel to Dublin because he was not a British passport holder.
Despite being a permanent resident and owning a biometric residence permit (BRP) – which he paid for – Mr Flowers does not share the same travel rights as ordinary British citizens.
The couple were told they would not receive a refund for their flight, and since Mrs Flowers could not travel alone to her disability, the pair had no choice but to leave.
Worse still, after waiting two hours for their bags to be handed back to them, the couple were told that Mrs Flowers’ suitcase had been sent to Dublin without her.
Mr Flowers said he felt extremely let down by the system, and had been made to feel like an outsider in his own home.
“When I came here, I had a job lined up,” he said. “The first day I started to work I paid tax, I paid national insurance.
“I remember when my parents and a lot of Caribbean people came here. The jobs that they were doing when they came here – the English people didn’t want to do those jobs. They wanted us to come to clean up the country. Now we’re not needed anymore. It’s disgusting.”
Since he was not supplied with a dual passport – or any official documentation – on first entering the UK with his parents, Mr Flowers only realised that he did not have full rights to travel outside of the UK when the couple took a trip to Jamaica roughly 10 years ago.
“When we came back, that’s when we found out we needed to get the paperwork,” Mrs Flowers said.
“He had his old passport with him [which said ‘to join parents’] but they said that’s not enough, you need to have the right to remain in your passport.
“They let him through but they put a stamp in there to say you’ve got to get the proper documents. We eventually got it sorted out and he got the biometric residence permit.”
“It took years to go through,” Mrs Flowers added. “If you try and phone them up it’s impossible. We had a lot of heartache with that.”
Mr Flowers said: “We weren’t getting the right information. It was unclear what you need.”
Mrs Flowers added: “His parents had right to remain in their passports. But he had, in his passport, ‘to join parents’. That should have said ‘to join parents and remain’.”
The couple, who intend to seek compensation for the cost of Mr Flowers’ BRP, were speaking after former Home Secretary Amber Rudd stepped down after admitting she had “inadvertently” misled MPs over the existence of targets for removing illegal immigrants as she faced increasing pressure over the handling of the Windrush “scandal”.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “We have been clear, this is about people who have built their lives here in the UK and contributed so much to our society. We don’t want them to feel unwelcome or to be in any doubt about their right to remain here and she has apologised unreservedly for any distress caused.
“The vast majority will already have documentation that proves their right to be here. For those that don’t, we have established a new dedicated team to quickly help them get the documentation they need and ensure this is resolved as soon as possible.
“The new dedicated team helping the Windrush generation will be on hand to assist undocumented long-resident Commonwealth citizens. We urge anybody who requires documentation to contact the helpline.”
A spokesperson for Ryanair said: “While we regret any inconvenience caused, it is each customer’s own responsibility to ensure they have the correct travel documents for their journey, as stated in our terms & conditions online. Our records confirm that the customer in question was not in possession of a valid travel visa for Ireland and was correctly denied boarding.”