This is a partial copy of an oral history interview on nationality, identity and belonging that took place on 27 May 2020 with Richard Black (during the pandemic). The interview formed part of a wider scoping project conducted by research fellow, Dr Juanita Cox, and culminated in the three-year AHRC funded project, The Windrush Scandal in its Transnational and Commonwealth Context.
Richard at the time of interview was based in Trinidad and had been brought to the notice of Cox by Glenda Andrews, a member of Preston Windrush Generation and Descendants UK (PWGD UK). The PWGD UK had responded to the Windrush Scandal and the pandemic by setting up ‘Windrush Conference Free Talk’, a forum which enabled interested parties to come together in solidarity every Tuesday at 8.30pm via zoom. These discussions attracted victims of the scandal from both inside and outside of the UK as well as their advocates. Discussions were often focused on the experiences of the black communities and those faced with unresolved citizenship or settled status issues and/or were going through the process of claiming compensation.
In this partial interview Richard talks about coming to the UK (aged 6) from St Lucia to join his already settled mother and elder brother in 1960. After leaving school he became a freelance photographer and married his first wife in 1976. On 13 July 1978 he was issued with a ten-year British passport, which gave him ‘right of abode’. Richard used this passport to travel with his wife to Trinidad to meet his in-laws and to attend carnival. On their return to the UK in March 1979, Richard passed through customs without incident, not noticing that his passport had been stamped ‘Subject to Immigration Control’. In Nov 1983 when his wife’s elderly parents fell sick, they again travelled to Trinidad. Richard ended up working in their family business while his wife cared for her parents.
By the time Richard decided to return to the UK his passport had expired. When he went to the British High Commission in Trinidad and tried to renew it, he was met with ‘hostility and racism’. They gave him a look which suggested ‘we don’t want your type back in the UK’. When his UK-based mother became ill in January 2003 he contacted the Home Office and was again met with hostility and racism. He was left distraught on later being unable to attend her funeral. On 27 October 2017 he wrote to the Passport Office. He was advised that he’d need to be in the UK to ‘naturalise’. He was informed that he would first have to apply for a St Lucian passport. This would enable him to obtain a ‘Returning Resident Visa’ and then to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
The irony for Richard was that his ex-wife had received right of abode based on his British nationality at marriage and further that they had divorced in 1991 because of the problems his irregular status had precipitated.
He was able under the Windrush Task Force scheme to make a claim for ILR and was sent £1,600 from the Vulnerable Person Fund. As of 30 January 2024, the Home Office continue to reject his right of abode based on the argument that St Lucia became independent on 29 February 1979.