Windrush row mum told she can stay in UK after Home Office apology

By Rianna Croxford
BBC News

Image source, Willow Sims
Image caption,
Willow Sims (left) lost her right to work in the UK, despite having lived in the country since she was four

A 41-year-old woman has been given the right to stay in the UK, just 10 days after the home secretary apologised for her not being able to access help.

Willow Sims is a US citizen who has lived in the UK since the age of four, but proof of her right to remain was lost when she was put into foster care.

The Windrush helpline had previously refused Ms Sims because she is not from a "Caribbean or Commonwealth" country.

Ms Sims says she now hopes to return to working at a London primary school.

Last Tuesday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid apologised to Ms Sims in Parliament for the "mistakes of the Home Office in not recognising the importance of her case".

The mother-of-two from Lewisham faced eviction and deportation after she lost the right to work, access to healthcare and benefits following a routine immigration check by her employer last April.

She worked as a teaching assistant until last year, when she was subjected to a routine DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check by her employers.

Without the necessary documents, she was unable to prove her immigration status.

Ms Sims said she was now "optimistic" and looked forward to rebuilding her life, and resuming work as a primary school teaching assistant.

"I've been carrying a bag of fear around with me for a year now and feel I can finally put it down." said Ms Sims.

The Home Office has now confirmed it has found a record of her call and also documentation proving she was enrolled as a pupil at a British primary school in 1983.

"The Taskforce have been working with Ms Sims to resolve her case and we are pleased that today (15 February), we have granted documentation that confirms her right to reside permanently in the UK." a Home Office statement said.

Image source, Willow Sims
Image caption,
Willow was placed in foster care following the death of her mother

The Windrush taskforce was set up to help thousands of people who were wrongly targeted by the Home Office's "hostile environment" strategy for illegal immigration.

People of any nationality who settled in the UK before 31 December 1988 can apply for help securing proof of their immigration status.

The Home Office says the Windrush taskforce "has taken thousands of phone calls and helped over 2,800 people of all nationalities prove their status in the UK".