Windrush scandal victim died under ‘enormous stress’
Dexter Bristol faced '10 month trek through almighty bureaucracy'
24 May, 2018 — By William McLennan
NEIGHBOURS of a man who died while under “enormous stress” caused by the government’s clampdown on children of the Windrush generation have said that his treatment was “disgusting”.
Dexter Bristol, 58, collapsed and died in the street outside his home in Holborn. Police told neighbours at the time that he had suffered a heart attack. His family’s lawyers have said that his death is “attributable to the problems he had trying to prove he was a British citizen”.
Lauren Navarro, who lived next door, said: “He was just such a nice guy. I was happy to have him as a neighbour. He was very quiet, a bit of a recluse.”
Mr Bristol died outside his home at Mullen Tower, Mount Pleasant, on March 29. Born in Grenada, he arrived in the UK in 1968, aged eight, to join his mother Sentina. A British subject, she was a nurse who moved to England to help out the NHS labour shortage.
His solicitors said his “life changed forever” in May last year when a job offer fell through after he discovered he could not prove his British citizenship.
His right to benefits was also challenged. He then faced a “10-month trek through an almighty bureaucracy”, attempting to track down landing cards, birth certificates and other proof of his arrival in the country five decades ago. The saga was said to have put him under “enormous stress”.
On the day he died, his lawyers had sent a letter with details of the progress they were making. Tragically, he died before reading it. The envelope was found, unopened, inside his front door.
Ms Navarro, whose grandmother moved from Saint Kitts to work as a nurse in the 1960s, shares a similar family history to her neighbour. She said that Mr Bristol’s treatment by the Home Office was “disgusting”.
Fear of being persecuted had driven his isolation, she believes.
“He never answered the door and now I know why,” she said. “I call it impostor syndrome and I see it in my relatives, too. They don’t think they have the right to speak out. They think: OK, we’re British, but are we British enough?”
His case follows that of Michael Braithwaite, a teaching assistant who lost his job at Gospel Oak Primary School in 2016 when his citizenship was challenged. After two years in limbo, the 66-year-old, who arrived from Barbados with his family in 1961, had his citizenship confirmed in April, two weeks after Mr Bristol’s death, as pressure mounted on the government.
Amber Rudd was forced to resign as home secretary last month after she misled parliament, wrongly claiming the Home Office had no targets to remove illegal immigrants. Tighter measures, requiring employers to run immigration checks, were introduced in 2013 when Theresa May was home secretary.
Mr Bristol’s local Labour councillors and MP Keir Starmer said that, according to their records, he had never made contact to request assistance.
Councillor Julian Fulbrook, a retired barrister who founded the prestigious Doughty Street Chambers, said: “I’m really sorry. I think we might have been able to help him, but he didn’t come forward. It’s a real shame. He probably just thought: Hide away, until the problem goes away. The stress must have been absolutely unbelievable.”
He said the Windrush scandal was “absolutely outrageous”. Mr Bristol’s lawyer, Jacqueline McKenzie, said: “The fact that British people have been made to feel so unwelcomed and unworthy in their own country is a damning indictment of a government proud to predicate its immigration policy on the basis of hostility.”
Patrick Vernon, director of mental health organisation Black Thrive, launched a crowdfunding drive to help pay for Mr Bristol’s funeral, which was held last week.
The Home Office said: “Our condolences are with Mr Bristol’s family and friends at this clearly difficult time.” He had made no applications to the Home Office and, at the time of his death, was “not the subject of any removal action”, it added.