A Corby woman caught up in her own Windrush-style immigration nightmare says she has contemplated suicide and ‘lost all hope’ during her two-year fight for citizenship.
Amanda Bruce, 38, who has lived in Corby since she was two months old, says her life has been a living hell after she was labelled ‘stateless’ in 2016.
Her ordeal was finally ended this week when the Home Office, under fire for the widespread Windrush immigration scandal, suddenly agreed to make her a British Citizen despite refusing to do so for two years,
Her story begins in 1979 when Amanda’s parents, Terry Yacinkaya, 63, and Chris Bruce, 64, moved to Australia for four months. Amanda was born while she was there, although the trio moved back home to Corby when she was just two months old.
Amanda went to school in Corby and when she was 16, was able to apply for a British Visitor’s passport, a cardboard document available to citizens which was then discontinued in 1995.
She worked in the town, had a national insurance number and paid taxes.
Her two children, six-year old Leyla and Kyle, 13, were also born and brought up in Corby.
But after she got a new job in 2016, her immigration status nightmare began.
Amanda said: “The past two years have been a living hell. After leaving the company I had been working for over 11 years I decided to go for a new job working at my daughter’s school.
“I was extremely happy to finally be doing a job I loved. After working in the school for six weeks I was asked to provide evidence of my right to work. I was unable to provide a British passport as identification as I only had my Australian birth certificate. I did not have a passport as I travelled under my mum and dad’s passport as a baby.
“A law was brought out in 1983 which states that your parents must be married in order to claim British descent. This law was brought out after I was born and after I moved to this country.”
Since then, Amanda has been caught in a bureaucratic minefield, fighting the Home Office to become a British citizen.
She said: “I have been passed from pillar to post for what seems like an eternity. I am unable to work and unable to claim any financial aid. I was proud of always working and paying my own way and have spent the past two years scraping, borrowing from friends and family in order to merely survive.
“I went to the citizens’ advice bureau and I was given a one off food bank voucher but due to not being in receipt of any sort of benefit due to being labelled stateless I was unable to claim it.”
In 2017, an exhausted Amanda sought publicity which spurred the Home Office into action and they promised they would rush her application through.
This never happened.
Amanda paid £25 for her biometrics to be taken and an £80 ceremony fee, sent passport photos, filled in my forms. But due to having no funds to live off, the £80 payment bounced, so she found herself back at the beginning of the process.
Amanda added: “Recently with the Wind Rush scandal coming to light in the media my case has now been addressed.
“On April 21, I rang a number dedicated to the Windrush generation. Just two days after I contacted them I’ve been informed that they’ll send me a certificate to prove I am a British citizen and sort my passport out. Most would be happy but I am left with a bitter taste that I have been left to rot for two years for something that took them just two days.
“This has without a doubt been the worst two years of my life.
“As someone who suffered depression and anxiety since the age of 15 this whole experience has only amplified my pain and suffering.
“Crying into my pillow, night after night, contemplating suicide. I am mentally beaten and broken. I just feel so completely and utterly let down by the system I have been a part of my whole life. I’ve had bailiffs at my door demanding council tax of up to £3,000 which I have obviously been unable to pay. My rent is in arrears with the threat of possible eviction.
“I have lived with the fear of being homeless for so long and have relied on the good will of close friends and family.
“I’ve lost all ambition, and all hope. I need to try and get on with my life but it seems like an impossible climb with all the debt I am in due to this.
“You can only imagine having to explain to your children that Father Christmas has ran out of presents this year. I have missed two years of pay from work but I have to try and carry on for the sake of my children and not only survive as I have done during this experience, but learn to live once again.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary has been clear that we need to give a human face to how we work and has pledged to establish a new customer contact centre, so anyone who is struggling to navigate the many different immigration routes can speak to a person and get appropriate advice. She has also personally apologised for the failure by successive governments to ensure that those with a legal right to be here have the documentation to prove it.
“Under the law at the time those born before 1983 outside of the UK and overseas territories, even to British parents, are not automatically British citizens. But there are options for many people in this situation to become a British citizen through registration or naturalisation. We would encourage anyone who is in this situation to first consult the extensive information on British citizenship on Gov.UK.”