United Kingdom

Family of Windrush generation woman who were told to pay £23,000 in Home Office fees win court case

The Home Office unlawfully discriminated against a Windrush woman after charging 'exorbitant' application fees to reunite her with her family, a court ruled today.

Lynda Mahabir, a 52-year-old Trinidad national, endured 'colossal interference' after she was separated from her family for more than two years and told to pay nearly £23,000 so they could be reunited in the UK.

Although she was brought to Britain as a two-month-old baby in 1969, she could not lawfully return to the country until the 2018 Windrush scheme. 

But after arriving, Mrs Mahabir faced the prospect of being separated from her husband, Winston, and five children after the Home Office refused their applications and requested processing fees of more than £20,000. 

A High Court judge ruled today that the Home Office's failure to provide the families of the Windrush generation preferential treatment when charging fees to enter the UK is unlawfully discriminatory.

Pictured is HMT Empire Windrush in 1948 - the vessel brought large groups of postwar West Indians, later dubbed the Windrush generation, to Britain

Today, in a landmark ruling, the High Court said the Home Office's refusal to give preferential treatment to the families of those from the Windrush generation is unlawful discrimination. 

The government is said to be reviewing the implications of today's decision, but insists it is 'determined to right the wrongs' imposed on the Windrush era.  

Mrs Mahabir, from west London, says she is 'very happy' with today's outcome and hoped her family would be able to join her in the next two months.

She told PA: 'We (my family) all agreed that we would fight this because the UK is a better place for them.

'I lost that opportunity as a child growing up, but I knew that opportunity could be available for them (my children) if I just held on.'

Trinidadian national Mrs Mahabir, who works with disabled people as a community support facilitator, was raised in the UK until she was nine, before being taken back to Trinidad by her father in 1977. 

Despite attempts to return, it was only in 2018 - some 41 years later - that she was allowed back permanently as a resident under the Windrush scheme.

Mrs Mahabir's family were not invited to return with her, instead being told they must pay more than £20,000 in application fees - something she described as 'impossible'.

But Mrs Mahabir challenged the Home Office, claiming the huge sums would have kept her from seeing her family again. 

Her lawyers successfully argued this was a breach of her human rights as it was discriminatory against her relatives - which Judge Tim Smith ruled in favour of. 

Judge Smith commented: 'Either she had to forego the remedies which the (Home Office) had put in place with the express intention of remedying the injustice suffered by her and others like her, or else she had to break up the family.

'She chose to do the latter, in the hope no doubt that it would be only temporary, but in the process she has suffered (a) colossal interference with her right to family life.'

A High Court judge ruled today that the Home Office's insistence that Lynda Mahabir. 52. pay £23,000 in application fees left her with a 'thankless choice' and was unlawful

The judge added that Mrs Mahabir's evidence 'about the negative impact of the separation from her family upon her is both undisputed and unsurprising'.

The High Court also ruled that the Home Office's failure 'to afford family members of a Windrush victim preferential treatment in the charging of fees... is indirectly discriminatory against them and is unlawful'.

Previously, 'hostile environment' policies introduced by Theresa May's Home Office in 2012 to curb illegal immigration were challenged by a civil rights watchdog.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found the failures to observe existing policy contributed to the national Windrush scandal - barring entirely legal migrants from that generation from entering the UK. 

Speaking about her treatment by the Home Office, Mrs Mahabir said: 'I felt misled. I don't want to use the word lied to, as that is too strong, but it is along those lines.' 

West Indian immigrants arrive in Victoria Station, London in 1956. Today, in a landmark ruling, the High Court ruled the Home Office's refusal to give preferential treatment to Windrush generation families was unlawful discrimination

A Home Office spokeswoman said: 'We remain determined to right the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation - over 12,500 people have been issued with documentation confirming their status or British citizenship free of charge under the Windrush scheme.

'We are carefully considering the implications of this judgment and will continue our work to ensure members of the Windrush generation receive the documentation they need, free of charge, in order to live, work and access services in the UK.'

In a statement after today's ruling, Jeremy Bloom, solicitor at law firm Duncan Lewis who represented the Mahabir family, shared his delight at the ruling.

He said: 'This is a fantastic outcome for the Mahabir family and for all those who are unable to come to the UK to join members of the Windrush generation simply because the Home Office refuses to waive their exorbitant application fees.

'The judgment makes it clear that the Home Office talks a good talk on Windrush but in reality the scheme is riddled with limitations and fails to properly consider the human rights of those it aims to help.

'A genuine commitment to righting the historic wrongs committed would not have to be enforced by court judgment in this way. 

Football news:

Gozens participated in 4 goals against Portugal. It's time to remember the story of the Ronaldo shirt
France leads Group F after two rounds, Germany and Portugal are a point behind
Gozens played in all 4 of Germany's goals against Portugal. He scored a goal and an assist
Havertz is the youngest German national team player to score at the Euro. He is 22 years and 8 days old
Ronaldo 1+1 in the match against Germany
Dzeko is close to moving to Fenerbahce Ozil (Sözcü)
20-year-old Gilmore was recognized as the player of the match in his debuts in the FA Cup, Premier League, Champions League and Euro