The Independent: Anthony Bryan: ‘My Windrush drama won a Bafta but I still haven’t received compensation’


The man behind a Bafta-winning drama about the Windrush scandal has yet to receive compensation from the Home Office, The Independent can reveal.

Anthony Bryan, whose story inspired BBC drama Sitting in Limbo, said winning Best Single Drama was “bittersweet” given his ongoing battle with the government.

Just hours before the awards ceremony on Sunday, a representative from the Home Office contacted Mr Bryan to offer him a package he described as “insulting”.

The 62-year-old was similarly contacted about compensation by government officials days before the TV drama, written by his screenwriter and novelist brother Stephen S Thompson, aired in June 2020.

“I feel great for my brother, really, and the win has lifted me up a bit, to be honest,” Mr Bryan said. “I didn’t expect it to resonate with so many people … I was surprised that it had such a big impact but am very glad that it did.

“But it was all very bittersweet and it hasn’t really sunk in; I was up until about 2am in disbelief over the fact that my story has won a Bafta but yet things haven’t moved on for me.”

He added: “It would be nice if I were able to move on with my life.”

Mr Bryan, from north London, was unlawfully detained by authorities twice and told he would be deported back to Jamaica, which he left in 1965 when he was eight.

The former decorator said he feared being denied re-entry to the UK if he visited his mother in Jamaica, having learned her health was poor around the same time he felt the impact of the Government’s “hostile environment” towards immigrants 2015.

Mr Bryan was abruptly dismissed from his job the same year and forced to rely on family members for financial assistance.

He finally received a biometric residence permit from the Home Office in May 2018.

“I remember breaking down crying while detained – on one occasion I’d just buried my son – and people around just ignoring me,” Mr Bryan recalled.

“When I think of what I’ve been through, I break out in cold sweats.

“I still get stressed out and, to this day, I can’t cope with hearing the banging of doors because it makes me very nervous and takes me back to that dark time in my life.”

The Windrush survivor has declined the Home Office’s compensation offer which amounts to around £90,000.

Last summer, Mr Bryan accepted an interim payment of £30,000 which was offered just before Sitting in Limbo was broadcast last year.

From this most recent offer, the government would deduct from that amount leaving him with £60,000.

“It was a very insulting offer; that’s what the Home Office thinks that I am worth after everything I’ve gone through,” he said.

What’s more, Mr Bryan said the government has not factored in his post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis which came as a result of his immigration ordeal.

Mr Bryan is experiencing additional health challenges including a recent diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which means he hasn’t been able to work since last February and is sometimes unable to even venture outside on his own.

“I’m supposed to be able to move on by now but this process keeps dragging on and on,” he said.

“If I didn’t have the support of my missus and my son, I would’ve been deported to Jamaica because I didn’t have the strength to fight this on my own.”

Mr Bryan’s case was one of many highlighted when it emerged members of the Windrush generation were being deported, detained, denied healthcare, work and housing despite having a legal right to be in the UK.

Having arrived as children, many assumed their citizenship was secured automatically and have struggled to prove their right to residence under tough conditions in the so-called hostile environment created under Theresa May when she was home secretary.

Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon told The Independent: “The recent National Audit Office report now makes the case that the compensation scheme needs to be removed from the Home Office.

“The scheme was not designed in the spirit of restorative justice or ‘righting the wrongs’ caused by the scandal, as the case workers and administration systems are not qualified to deal with complex nature of its financial, emotional and cultural impact because of the hostile environment.

“With the success of Sitting in Limbo, I hope more people will sign my petition which calls for the compensation scheme to be taken away from the government.”

“Twenty-one dead and nothing said,” he added, referring to the number of people affected by the scandal who died before receiving compensation.

It comes as Priti Patel insisted the Windrush compensation scheme has “fundamentally changed” in the last six months.

She told the House of Commons on Monday that, since an overhaul in December, the Home Office has paid out six times more than the previous total.


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