A mother of two said she felt ‘victimised’ after being asked to prove she is not an illegal immigrant – despite living in the UK for 43 years.
Joanne Power was born in Sasolburg, South Africa, to UK parents – but the passport office has questioned her nationality. She said: “There is a real possibility I could not be granted a passport, and then what do I do? I would be jobless, definitely.
“It feels like victimisation.”
The 44-year-old moved to Littlehampton aged 18 months after her father Brian Oakley finished work for IPC Construction, and has lived here since, getting married and having two children: Ellie, 17, and Lewis, 16. After three years of working at Morrisons as a checkout operator, her employers sent her home because she did not have a passport to prove she had a right to work in the UK – despite having a driving licence and birth certificate.
She said ‘at first she thought it was comical’ but then cried: “If I am not deemed to be British, I could lose my council house, my benefits. It was all a shock.”
Joanne, from Lagden Gardens in Angmering, spent £100 applying for one, but was later told by the passport office to post her parents’ birth and marriage certificates to Belfast ‘to prove her birth was legitimate’, she said.
She then received a letter asking her to go to the Portsmouth passport office on July 27 for an interview.
She said: “I’m angry, because I have always believed I’m British. But now, people are querying who I have always thought I am.”
Because she applied for a passport, her manager let her return to work for now. A Morrisons spokesman said: “The law now requires us to check that everybody employed has specific documents to confirm they have the right to work in the UK. A passport is one of the documents that can be used.”
Joanne also wondered if her treatment was linked to the Windrush scandal, where descendents of Caribbean people invited to the UK after the Second World War were wrongly detained, deported or lost their jobs because of the Home Office.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We always aim to process applications as quickly as possible, although Her Majesty’s Passport Office will not issue a passport until all checks upon nationality, identity and eligibility are satisfactorily completed. These checks include documentary evidence and, for adults applying for their first UK passport, we may conduct an interview to help confirm their identity.
“Mrs Power has been asked to comply with this process in the same way as any other applicant and we are progressing her application.”
They pointed employers to the Windrush Scheme, set up after the scandal, which lets employees work for six months while their passport application is processed.