Black British women pioneers: Paulette Wilson

Following the recent death of U.K. campaigner, Paulette Wilson, on Thursday morning of July 23, we wish to pay patronage to her in this series of Black British women in history.

Who are they?

Paulette Wilson campaigned for justice for others arising from the Windrush Scandal from 2018. Wilson moved to Telford from Jamaica in 1968 at the age of 10. Ms Wilson remained in Britain, being looked after by her grandparents in Telford before moving to Wolverhampton; she never visited Jamaica, had 34 years of National Insurance payments, and had a British daughter and grandchild. Wilson worked as a chef in the House of Commons’ restaurant, and volunteered at her local church, prepping meals for the homeless.

What did she do?

Wilson faced deportation herself in August 2015 when she was sent to a detention centre, and told she had no rights for residency, before eventually being granted permission to stay from the Home Office. In October 2017, she was also held in Yarl Wood’s immigration removal centre for a week before being released after her local MP, Emma Reynolds, and the Wolverhampton Refugee and Migrant Centre intervened. Wilson’s daughter has said her mother was more ‘withdrawn’ after the ordeal, and unlike her bubbly-self. Compensation for being wrongfully detained was received; however, Wilson did not get compensation through the Windrush scheme which left her struggling.

One month ago, Wilson was amongst a group that delivered a letter to Downing Street, signed by over 130,000 people, calling for quick action to address the failings that brought about the Windrush Scandal.

Why is she important?

The Windrush Scandal impacted many who had built lives in Britain, and only known Britain and nothing else as home, but were told to go back to a motherland unknown. Ms Wilson fought for the rights of those affected and at risk of removal.

Wilson’s daughter, Natalie Barnes, has said in a recent statement: “My mum was a fighter and she was ready to fight for anyone. She was an inspiration to many people… She was widely loved and respected; her laugh was infectious and she loved to see people smile.”

Wilson’s impact is still ongoing as other petitions have been set up such as this one calling for the government to make the compensation scheme process simpler. Once it reaches 100,000 signatures, Windrush campaigners will take it to Downing Street.

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