Windrush generation grandmother loses job with Manor Park charity helping migrants

Jessica Eugene arrived in the UK aged 10 in 1970. She was sacked at the end of March by a migrant ch

Jessica Eugene arrived in the UK aged 10 in 1970. She was sacked at the end of March by a migrant charity because she could not prove her right to remain. Picture: KEN MEARS - Credit: Archant

A Windrush generation grandmother lost her job with a charity helping migrants because she couldn’t prove her right to work.

Jessica Eugene, from Carroll Close, Maryland, arrived in the UK from the Caribbean island of Dominica on April 3 1970 aged 10.

She was clutching a blue passport which she remembered a British immigration officer stamping “indefinite right to remain” on.

But 48 years later – after working and raising a family in this country – she was devastated after her employer, the charity Newham Community Renewal Programme, sacked her because she couldn’t prove her right to work.

“It’s really unjust the government’s policy has had this impact,” Miss Eugene said. “It’s just terrible. I’m gutted.”

Miss Eugene tried contacting the Home Office beforehand but felt secure thinking she had a right to be in the UK. But unable to produce evidence she was sacked on March 29.

“I’ve paid my taxes since 1979. If I were here illegally I would have kept hidden,” she said.

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On the irony of someone whose parents came to the UK searching for a better life getting sacked by a charity which supports refugees and migrants, she said: “It does fantastic work.”

She added that given the government’s announcement and apology that the Windrush generation always had a right to remain, she felt it would have been nice for her former employer to call given her sacking was a few weeks ago.

The 58-year-old diabetic – who worked for three years as a receptionist and cleaner at the Manor Park charity – now faces having to claim benefits.

“All my life I’ve been working. I’m not sure how I will cope financially,” she said.

However, she is determined not to let things get her down.

“I’ve always been a positive person. This is a terrible situation but I have to deal with it,” she said.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has 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.

“We’ve set up a webpage and have been speaking to charities, community groups and High Commissioners to ensure advice and reassurance is provided to those affected.”

Newham Community Renewal Programme declined to comment.

People arriving in the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries have been labelled the Windrush generation after the ship MV Empire Windrush which brought the first arrivals.

Call the Home Office free on 0800 678 1925 for more advice. Phones are manned Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm and Sunday 10am to 4pm.