Tributes paid after Wolverhampton Windrush campaigner Paulette Wilson dies aged 64
Tributes have been paid to Windrush campaigner Paulette Wilson, from Wolverhampton, who has died at the age of 64.
Ms Wilson was one of thousands of people affected by the Windrush scandal after she was nearly deported despite having lived in the UK for almost 50 years.
She made her home in Heath Town, Wolverhampton, having arrived in Telford from Jamaica as a 10-year-old in 1968.
Last month she joined other Windrush victims to deliver a petition to Downing Street signed by more than 130,000 people calling for action to address the failings which led to the scandal.
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It had been hoped she could receive compensation of up to £100,000.
Her daughter, Natalie Barnes, said she found her mother early on Thursday, and that she appeared to have died in her sleep.
Ms Barnes said in a statement: "My mum was a fighter and she was ready to fight for anyone. She was an inspiration to many people. She was my heart and my soul and I loved her to pieces."
Ms Wilson, who worked as a chef for most of her life, spent two years under the threat of deportation after she was sent a letter informing her that she was an immigration offender.
She was told she needed to return to Jamaica, was arrested twice and sent to Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre.
In 2017 she was preparing to board a flight to Kingston when her deportation was prevented by a last-minute intervention by her MP, Emma Reynolds, and Wolverhampton's Refugee and Migrant Centre.
Ms Wilson's story prompted others who had been mistreated to come forward, leading to an apology from then Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who subsequently resigned over the scandal.
In an interview with the Express & Star in March, Ms Wilson spoke of her struggles to move on from her ordeal.
"I went to Parliament and got a few apologies," she said. "It made me feel why did I have to go through this at my age? Of course it was wrong, it shouldn't have happened. People like us have worked in this country for 50 or 60 years.
"The Government haven't done anything for me. They have just apologised and that's it."
Paying tribute to Ms Wilson, former Wolverhampton North East MP Ms Reynolds, said: "I am hugely saddened to hear this awful news. I used to represent Paulette in Parliament.
"She was a wonderfully warm person, full of life, a brilliant campaigner for justice for others and had herself been treated appallingly.
"I have fond memories of having dinner in Parliament with Paulette, her daughter and Guardian journalist Amelia Gentleman.
"It was after a meeting with other members of the Windrush generation who had also been mistreated. It was incredibly moving to see them meet and talk through what had happened to them.
"I was so pleased that Paulette was able to visit Jamaica on her own terms to meet her family.
"She will be greatly missed."
Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden said he was saddened to hear of Ms Wilson's death.
"She had been through such a lot and her story was one of the most vivid examples of what was happening with the Windrush generation. RIP Paulette Wilson," he said.
A gofundme page launched to cover Ms Wilson's funeral cost had reached more than £2,400 this morning.
It was set up by Wolverhampton-born Windrush activist Patrick Vernon, who said: "Paulette Wilson was mother,grandmother and a campaigner and spoke truth to power regarding Windrush Scandal and inspired many other survivors to share their story.
"She was proud of her Jamaican and Wolverhampton roots. She was Likkle but Tallawah. RIP Paulette."
The leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council also paid tribute to Ms Wilson. Councillor Ian Brookfield said: “I was very sad to hear of the passing of Paulette Wilson.
"She was an inspiration to so many people and fought incredibly hard on behalf of fellow members of the Windrush generation who were caught up in the same dreadful situation she found herself in.
"As a council we were proud to be able to work with Paulette, her family and the Refugee and Migrant Centre to help support local residents to gain their rightful British citizenship. She will be much missed by everyone who knew her, and on behalf of the council I pass on our sincere condolences to her friends and family.”
See the gofundmepage at gofundme.com/f/remembering-paulette-wilson