Windrush Citizen’s Death Linked to Anxiety over Immigration Status

In a case that highlights the ongoing aftermath of the Conservative Government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy, a migrant of the Windrush generation died with immense pressure to provide evidence of his British citizenship contributing to his eventual heart failure.

Mr. Dexter Bristol, native of Caribbean island Grenada, was found collapsed on the street near him home in North London last March.

Dexter Bristol, https://metro.co.uk/2019/10/07/windrush-immigrant-died-stress-couldnt-prove-british-10878266/

It was the second inquest into the events surrounding Mr Bristol’s death to consider any impacts the Home Office and the immigration process had on his health. Mr Bristol’s relatives challenged the initial ruling in which the original coroner rejected to hear evidence that implicated the Home Office adding to Mr Bristol’s anxiety and stress over a dispute about his British citizenship. His Mother, Mrs D’Artanyan-Bristol and other relatives left the initial hearing after the coroner ruled the Home Office should not be considered in the factors contributing to Mr Bristol’s death.

Mr Bristol arrived in the UK in 1968 as a child and died aged 57 years old. He was deemed ineligible for welfare support after losing his job as a cleaner due to the Home Office declaring him an illegal immigrant as he did not have a passport. He did not seek healthcare with the NHS for nearly two years due to fears surrounding his immigration status, particularly as so many Windrush migrants were being threatened with deportation or subject to complicated immigration processes in order to prove their right to remain in Britain.

[Image credit: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/05/windrush-protest-whitehall-diane-abbott-theresa-may-hostile-environment-policy]

A consultant cardiologist at Guy and St Thomas’ Hospital, Professor Jaswinder Gill, informed the court of Mr Bristol’s concerns over financial and housing stability as he attempted to navigate the bureaucratic immigration, adding: “He was under what I believe from looking at the notes was quite substantial stress from losing his income and abode, and that would have contributed to his heightened risk of arrhythmias”, adding, “I therefore do believe that the excess stress … would have contributed towards his demise.”

Setina D’Artanyan-Bristol, said:

“I don’t think justice was done. The stress from the Home Office brought on the heart attack, he was going through a lot of stress because of the Home Office.”

Representing the family, immigration lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie said after the first hearing that Mr Bristol was “distressed by the fact he was having to prove his status in the country. He was prepared to fight but as the months went on and he was required to find more evidence it became very difficult and we saw him just decline into a shadow of himself.”

The family had previously met previous Home Secretary Sajid Javid who admitted changes needed to be considered going forward. MP Priti Patel now takes office as Home Secretary.

Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, when speaking on the Windrush scandal last year said of Mrs D’Artanyan-Bristol’s belief that the stress of her son having to prove his British citizenship contributed to his death: “She argued, powerfully and convincingly, that this is racism. He was a victim of their [Conservative government’s] policies.”

[Image credit: https://dpglaw.co.uk/the-consultation-on-the-windrush-compensation-scheme-closes-16-november-2018/]