Abandoned Children of the British Empire

A modest pavilion on a quiet north London street, between a primary school and a railway line. Buried on the sofa, Janet McKay-Williams and her companion Anthony Bryan, hats screwed on their heads, received us. The 65-year-old painter and decorator, who is retired, came to England in 1965 from his native Jamaica, aged 8, to join his mother, who worked as a seamstress in London. Born before the independence of the British colony (in 1962), Anthony Bryan benefited from the right of permanent residence. “mother land” (“Motherland”), a nickname still given to Great Britain in the Caribbean.

In 2015, he returned to Jamaica to visit his mother. He needs a passport: he doesn’t have one. He had never taken a holiday abroad before and his name was on his older brother’s passport when he arrived in England, which is often the norm for children. .

“A few weeks later, a home office contractor [le ministère de l’intérieur]Capita says I’m not registered as British, I’m in an illegal situation and will be deported unless I can prove I’ve lived here all my life”. Anthony Bryan says.

A reserved seat on a flight to Jamaica

This is the beginning of a real test. With the help of Janet McKay-Williams, he tries to collect documents proving that he has lived in the United Kingdom for more than fifty years without interruption. But he lost his birth certificate long ago, his college no longer exists, and his primary school only keeps records for twenty years.

“I had to contact the teachers again and ask them for letters certifying that they remember me. They asked me for photos, but it was not easy: at that time, why would I have photographed myself in front of my school? ! But, it was not enough for the home office, I The documents brought, I told them I might have done it and they thought I was lying. Anthony reprimands Brian.

Anthony Bryan, 65, was born before Jamaica's independence.  He was twice placed in a detention center and threatened with deportation.  His story is perfect for the screen.
Janet McKay-Williams, partner of Anthony Bryan.

Compared to an undocumented person, he loses his job as a painter, his right to access social assistance, to a public hospital. His situation worsens when he is arrested and threatened with deportation. He spent three weeks in a detention center 260 kilometers from London. “He was far away, I didn’t know how to convince him over the phone, I felt helpless”, Janet McKay-Williams says. He is finally released “Because [qu’il a] An error was found in his file. After he submitted the documents to the Home Office, she says (authorities mixed up elements of her file with a name). In 2017, Anthony Bryan was arrested again at his home. His place on a flight to Jamaica already reserved, his companion enlists the help of a lawyer to prevent him from being forced to leave in extremism.

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