The airing of the drama, “Sitting in Limbo,” on BBC One was a painful reliving of Britain’s Windrush Scandal, particularly for novelist Stephen S. Thompson and his brother, Anthony Bryan, who lived it. Thompson wrote the feature-length film and Bryan is the subject.
The film details Bryan’s three-year fight with Britain’s government to prevent being deported after entering the country legally and living there quietly for 50 years. It stars Patrick Robinson, Nadine Marshall, Pippa Bennett-Warner, and CJ Beckford.
The Windrush Scandal was named after the ship that brought the first groups of immigrants from the West Indies in 1948, many of whom came to fill labor shortages. Over 500,000 people came from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971. The country’s modern-day hostile environment policy made it possible for people like Bryan to be wrongly targeted.
Bryan emigrated from Jamaica to Britain at the age of eight, became a painter and decorator, and had never even had a near-brush with the law. Police arrived at his home in 2016 with a battering ram and placed him in a detention center for two weeks before letting him go. He appealed the decision in 2017 and lost. He was booked on a flight for deportation. Only last-minute intervention by an immigration attorney prevented his deportation.
He lost his job, couldn’t claim a pension, use the NHS, and was separated from his partner, Janet, and his seven grandchildren. Bryan was one of more than 1,000 people mistakenly targeted for deportation. As a child, Bryan immigrated on an adult relative’s passport, which was legal at the time so no travel documents were available.
The government made proving arrival dates more difficult. It had destroyed thousands of landing card slips that recorded arrival dates and then placed responsibility for providing those proofs on the accused. Many were forcibly deported and the full scope of how many people were affected still isn’t fully known.
All told, Bryan was detained twice and spent a total of five weeks in a detention center. In 2018, the government admitted its wrong-doing and that it illegally detained at least 850 people from 2012-1017. As of 2020, a total of 1,207 individuals have filed for recompense, but only 36 have been awarded money. Bryan is not one of them.
Bryan’s life was irrevocably changed by the Windrush Scandal and he’s been severely traumatized, but he’s not bitter. In May 2018, Bryan was issued his official paperwork live on the “Good Morning Britain” TV show and a plane ticket to Jamaica so he could finally visit his aged mother.