Ken Morgan, a Windrush victim who spent the past 25 years in Jamaica after his British passport was taken from him, had been looking forward to tucking into some fish and chips the day he finally returned to the UK. But he was taken back by what his local shop served him.
“It shocked me, I didn’t know it had morphed into this fine food. Fish and chips is fish and chips – street food. It’s morphed into a gourmet dish. What the hell?” He was also stunned to learn it now cost £8.
But much of his hometown was how he remembered it. The Walthamstow markets still served an abundance of fruit and veg and the house he grew up in was bustling with his loved ones who were keen to welcome him home. Inside, the house hadn’t changed much, but it still felt different.
“When you’re small, everything looks bigger. When you’re big, everything looks smaller. It’s a funny thing,” he said.
Morgan, 68, arrived in the UK in 1959, aged nine, but he has spent the past 25 years in Jamaica after his British passport was taken from him.
He said he was offered no help by the British high commission when, while he was on his way home after a trip to Jamaica for a family funeral, his passport was confiscated without explanation at check-in at Kingston airport.
Morgan arrived in the UK at about 8am on Thursday on a flight from Kingston and walked into the Gatwick arrivals area, giving a thumbs up and wearing a hat with a Jamaican flag on it.
“It’s kind of interesting, this one. They said it was balmy. The pilot said it was balmy. It’s not too bad, considering,” he said.
Following the Guardian’s investigation into the Windrush scandal, Morgan was offered leave to remain. “When he [the Guardian’s reporter Josh Halliday] came to Jamaica, he saw we started off with nothing, then they [the British high commission] recognised, they checked and then they found discrepancy and they made adjustments. They gave this visa,” Morgan said, pointing to a stamp of entry on his passport that stated he had leave to remain.
His cousin Gwendolyn, 81, had arrived early at the house to help prepare lunch for Morgan’s arrival. She spent much of the afternoon making cups of tea for the family members gathered around the living room. She beamed when she said: “It’s lovely to have Ken back. It’s nice to see him. He hasn’t changed. He’s still the same Ken.”
Morgan initially grew up in Hackney but moved to Walthamstow to live with his aunt and uncle who raised him. His uncle Dudley spoke of the first time he took Morgan to school. His aunt, Adelide, 95, was delighted he was home.
Morgan said he welcomed the attention the Windrush scandal had brought to people like him. “We were statistics and we then became people. Once you see people, you think, wait, why are they doing this to this person?” He described England as a “mess” after the second world war and explained how the Windrush generation was key to rebuilding the country. “Our contribution may not be the biggest, but it was significant at the time,” he said.
Morgan was keen to stress that his life in Jamaica had been good. He first opened a shop in Kingston, but was attacked by a gunman who shot him five times before Morgan managed to disarm him. He eventually got a job in graphics at the University of the West Indies, where he met his wife, Annika Lewinson-Morgan, a British-Swedish citizen.
He said: “I don’t sleep in a cardboard box. I’m not a failure, I survived the odds and flourished, but they [the British government] did treat me poorly, and they treated me poorly now.”
Morgan was told to come to the UK to collect his biometric card, but it wasn’t ready when he went to the post office to collect it. “Everyone is asking me how long I’m going to stay and I don’t know because I’m waiting on them to contact me and give me my biometric card and I don’t know when its going to happen,” he said.
The leave to remain he was granted also feels like a stopgap. Morgan said he wanted his passport back. His second cousin Roger, 60, said: “An apology means that you have to rectify the situation. By giving somebody a temporary pass, it doesn’t rectify anything.
“He gets a brief respite. And then after that, nothing has changed. You haven’t rectified anything. Give him a passport and we can say ’OK, you’ve actually done something’. You’re actually sorry for what you did.”
Earlier in the day, Morgan had criticised the government’s consultation on the Windrush compensation scheme for being far too complex. He said people affected “have to prove all these expenses that you would have accrued over years, and I’m not sure how that works out for poor people”.
He added: “Jamaica is basically a cash society. Three-quarters of the economy is cash. It’s very hard to find documentation for 20 years or more. Very difficult. I’m not quite sure how its going to work out.”
He said he was taking the fight to get his passport back “step by step”. For now, it just felt good to finally be home.