Author: HARVEY GAVIN
A SPECIAL needs teaching assistant who worked at a north London school for 15 years has been sacked after a local authority deemed him an illegal immigrant – despite him having lived in the UK for more than 50 years.
Michael Braithwaite moved to the UK from Barbados but lost his job because he does not possess one of the latest identity cards.
A routine check on his immigration status carried out last year by the primary school where he worked revealed Mr Braithwaite did not have an up-to-date ID document.
The 66-year-old subsequently lost his job after the local authority responsible for the school decided he needed to provide documentary proof of his right to residency in the UK – despite having lived here since 1961.
The father-of-three British children said he has always considered himself to be British and never applied for a UK passport.
Because he arrived before 1973, the grandfather of five has permanent right to remain in Britain.
But measures introduced by Theresa May during her time as Home Secretary in 2013 now mean some employers are obliged to run immigration status checks.
This has led to problems for those who arrived in the UK decades ago and have little or no documentary proof of their residency rights.
Since losing his job, Mr Braithwaite has been involved in a two-year battle with the Home Office in the hope of persuading officials to acknowledge his residency rights, but has so far been unsuccessful.
He told the Guardian he was distraught at losing his job and the ongoing ordeal with the Home Office has pushed him close to a mental breakdown.
He said: “It made me feel like I was an alien. I almost fell apart with the stress.”
Regarding the loss of his job, he said: “I had a good rapport with the children. The head said I was an asset to the school, but the HR department said I was illegal because I didn’t have a biometric card.
“I had no idea what a biometric card was. I had no idea there was a need to naturalise.”
The high-tech biometric residence permits are now required for any non-European Economic Area nationals wishing to stay in the UK for longer than six months and for those applying for residency.
The driving licence-sized cards were introduced in 2015 and feature a picture of the holder and their immigration status as well as their fingerprints which are stored on an electronic chip.
Mr Braithwaite said the latest correspondence with the Home Office told him he needs to provide further documentary evidence to prove he arrived in the UK before 1973 before a biometric permit can be issued.
Accepted forms of evidence include records from GP surgeries and schools, but paper-based records dating back 45 years can be difficult to track down or may have been lost or destroyed.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We will be in touch with Mr Braithwaite very soon to assure him that we are looking to resolve his case as soon as possible and issue him with documentation confirming his status here. We value the contribution made by Commonwealth citizens who have made a life in the UK.”