London victim of the Windrush scandal said the compensation he waited four years for does not make up for a lifetime of injustice. Noel Russell moved to England from Jamaica when he was 11 years old, but it took 56 years for him to be given British citizenship.
His father, of the same name, came to England from Jamaica in 1952 working in Nottingham for the National Coal Board. He was joined by his wife Edith a few years later and in 1963 the couple were joined by their son.
Mr Russell went to school in Balham and wanted to become the first black jockey. But his lifelong passion for horses was thwarted when he wasn’t able to sit his exams at Witney Agricultural College in Oxfordshire.
READ MORE:‘Treated like an illegal immigrant’ Life as a Londoner of the Windrush generation
Over the years Mr Russell and his family feared there would be a knock on the door telling him he had to leave the country. He worked in a string of jobs but had to had to rely on his wife Christine for financial support after being unable to find a job as he could not prove he was a UK citizen. Since 2019 he has been trying to win compensation, open to Commonwealth citizens who settled in the UK before 1973, for the losses he faced.
He received £83,000 of compensation earlier this year but said he had to spend £30,000 on solicitors just to fight to get more than the £20,000 he was originally offered. Now 70, he said: “There is no justice in it, the real issue hasn’t been addressed, it is ‘here’s a couple of quid’ and back to normal.
“It felt like begging for money, we had to prove that we deserved it. I’ve got friends and family who put in claims and are still waiting. If I didn’t get solicitors involved I don’t think I would have got the money.
“My education cost me thousands and I was prevented from getting my qualifications. That is my main bone of contention, it changed the course of my life forever.”
Now Mr Russell has hopes of getting back into the industry and breeding race horses. Since the Windrush compensation scheme was announced he has had dreams of buying land to start a stud farm.
In 2020 he received a written apology from Priti Patel, which said: “This was unacceptable and should never have happened. The Home Office is working hard to ensure that lessons are learned to avoid similar mistakes in the future.”
Mr Russell, who lives in Mitcham, described the letter as “hollow” and thinks the Windrush statue unveiled at Waterloo station on Windrush Day is “nonsense”. He added: “We never came into a railway station. The Windrush generation were not refugees my father came under a government contract to come and help. My dad would turn in his grave at the scandal.”