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The incredible legacy of Paulette Wilson and those still fighting for justice

A Wolverhampton campaigner has been remembered for her valiant fight for justice for victims of the Windrush scandal.

Paulette Wilson captured national headlines after she was wrongly detained by the Home Office and threatened with deportation in October 2017.

The 64-year-old was denied benefits, access to healthcare and refused permission to work after being told she was an illegal immigrant – despite living in the UK for more than 50 years.

Read more: Windrush Day 2021: Blue plaque unveiled in honour of scandal victim and campaigner, Paulette Wilson

The much-loved mum and grandma had moved from Jamaica to Britain as a child in 1968 and went on to work as a cook at the House of Commons. Her case was raised in Parliament after she was detained.

Tragically she died in her sleep on July 23, last year, just a month after travelling to Downing Street to deliver a petition calling for justice for victims of the Windrush scandal.

Paulette Wilson at the launch of the Paulette Wilson Windrush Citizenship Project

Paulette had devoted her life to fighting tirelessly for justice for more than 15,000 people affected by the Windrush Scandal. Following her plight, the Paulette Wilson Windrush Citizenship Project was launched by Wolverhampton’s Refugee and Migrant Centre in partnership with the City of Wolverhampton Council in 2018.

A blue plaque to honour the life and contribution of the much-loved grandmother was installed at The Heritage Centre in Wolverhampton’s Clifford Street.

Speaking about her legacy, Windrush campaigner Professor Patrick Vernon OBE told Black Country Live: “The blue plaque unveiled in Wolverhampton stands as a marker that we should never forget her heroic deeds in helping to expose the Windrush Scandal by sharing her experiences to expose the government. That will always be in the history books.

“The Windrush Scandal is one of the biggest instances of injustice affecting British Black people so her legacy is her fight to bring it to light.

Windrush campaigners Micheal Braithwaite, Anthony Bryan, Paulette Wilson, Glenda Caesar, and Edwardo Romeo hand the petition to Downing Street
Windrush campaigners Micheal Braithwaite, Anthony Bryan, Paulette Wilson, Glenda Caesar, and Edwardo Romeo hand the petition to Downing Street

“Her legacy lives on, I’m very proud that I knew her, worked closely with her and counted her as a friend. Hopefully, there will be other things that celebrate her legacy such as films, books and memorials to remind everyone that she did not die in vain.”

At the unveiling, Paulette’s daughter Natalie said: “Mum just wanted to help others and get justice. I will not allow my mum’s name to go in vain. I shall continue the fight until the lessons learned are put right so again I and my family are honoured to be able to put a blue plaque in honour of my mum.

“I will do whatever it takes to make sure Mum’s name will forever be spoken as a single mum who didn’t give up and fought for her rights.”

The government launched a Windrush compensation scheme in April 2019. However, there have been calls for an overhaul as thousands of claimants are yet to receive a payout.

Professor Vernon says he is still waiting for a response from the Home Office after a petition to fix the Windrush compensation scheme amassed more than 110,000 signatures.

A plaque to Paulette Wilson, Windrush campaigner, is unveiled at the Heritage Centre in Wolverhampton.
A plaque to Paulette Wilson, Windrush campaigner, is unveiled at the Heritage Centre in Wolverhampton.

He added: “The scheme should be removed from the Home Office and managed independently. They also need to stop deportations to the Caribbean. A lot of victims are suffering from post-traumatic stress due to the hostile environment, we need a proper mental health support package for the victims and their families.

“Over 15,000 people have gone through the Home Office task force to sort out their status and not even 10 per cent have been paid yet, that tells you that the scheme is failing.”

Thandiwe Newton and Sir Lenny Henry are among the 111,193 people who have signed a petition calling for the Windrush compensation scheme to be amended by the Home Office.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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