Bumi Thomas has been told she is illegal despite being born in Glasgow and spending most of her life in the UK.
A musician born in the UK faces being kicked out of her home because of a little-known change to Home Office legislation.
Bumi Thomas was given 14 days to leave after being told she is illegal despite living here most of her life. The rising jazz star grew up thinking she was British, attended university in the UK and has legally worked and paid taxes since graduation.
However because her parents are Nigerian, she now faces deportation and being separated from her family and friends. The situation bears a chilling resemblance to the Windrush scandal, which saw many people deported in error after decades of life in the UK.
Ms Thomas was born in Glasgow in June 1983 to parents who came over from Africa in the early 1970s. In January 1983, Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government changed the British Nationality Act that removed the automatic right of citizenship for children of parents from former colonies.
The singer’s parents should have registered her but were unaware they needed to do so. In a twist of irony, Ms Thomas’ elder sister Kemi was born one year before the Act and has always had legal status.
The musician, 36, believes she is a victim of an increasingly hostile attitude by the Home Office to migrants in the UK. She told the Mail on Sunday: ‘My parents came here at the end of the Windrush era. ‘I had a National Insurance number, I had my birth certificate, I’d got a driving licence, a bank account, I went to college.
‘At no point during that process was there any indication I was doing anything incorrectly.’ Speaking to Metro.co.uk, she continued: ‘I have never had any question in my mind that I’m British and Scottish. ‘And that’s something I’m proud of. But according to a piece of paper, suddenly what I think about myself isn’t valid. It’s an illusion.’
At the age of three-and-a-half, Ms Thomas and her family returned to Nigeria. She came back to the UK as a teenager, thinking she automatically had dual British-Nigerian nationality.
After graduating with a degree in fine arts from Bath Spa University she began to work and moved to London, where she now lives with her sister.
It was only at the age of 25 when she went to apply for her UK passport that she was told she was never registered as British. The Home Office was told she had technically overstayed in an illegal capacity.
Ms Thomas said her case was classed as ‘complex’ and she was told to use human rights legislation rather than immigration laws to fight it. That marked the start of an ‘exhausting and expensive’ decade-long legal battle.
Two weeks ago she received a letter from the Home Office saying her application for permanent residency had been unsuccessful. She was given 14 days to appeal or face detention without notice.
Ms Thomas has since lodged an appeal and is awaiting a court hearing. The musician, who has performed at the Royal Festival Hall and London Palladium, continued: ‘My parents had no idea of the law change.