A classic story of riches to rags came to life in 2005 after a trip to Jamaica left a boxing Champion and Windrush victim stranded on the island.
Ex-professional boxer and Windrush victim, Vernon Vanriel, 63, will be reunited with his family in the United Kingdom after struggling to survive in Jamaica the last thirteen years.
Once a boxing champion with crowds screaming his name, Vanriel’s life is a classic story of riches to rags when a trip to Jamaica in 2005 left him stranded on the island, living in an abandoned grocery shack with nothing but his gloves to remind him of the life he once had.
After struggling for 13 years with homesickness, destitution, and mental illness, Vanriel will be allowed to return to his childhood home, although he says he’s can’t afford the flight.
“I’ve slept on graves, tombstones, derelict buildings. You just don’t know,” Vanriel said.
"It has been hell...If I ever end up accidentally going to hell, I’ll be well prepared for it from the experience I have had here,” he said.
Though the High Commission has said a ticket may be provided, no guarantees have been made.
Once one of Britain’s top contemporary Black athletes, Vanriel attempted to return home on multiple occasions to no avail. Since the Windrush scandal broke in April, he has relied on the kindness of a local shop owner to keep in contact with a U.K. online hotline to assist with his immigration case.
“I honestly don’t know how I have been surviving this long. When I think about my past, it makes me happy and that’s what I live on. I’ve nothing else,” he said.
Vanrielm’s older sister, Lynette, told the Guardian, “I’m extremely disappointed at the way the government has handled the situation... It’s just so unfair. When he traveled to Britain he was a British subject. Why is it so complicated for the government to understand that these people are British people.”
Vanriel arrived in the U.K. at the age of six and was one of thousands in the ‘Windrush Generation,’ subjects from the British colonies lured from their Caribbean homes with the promise of citizenship in exchange for their services rebuilding post-war Britain.
However, a fumble in the Home Office caused the loss of migratory records and the unjust deportation of thousands on the presumption of illegal migrant status. Caribbean immigrants were subject to discrimination, threats of deportation, lost employment, and inadequate medical treatment.
Vanriel, whose relationship with his three children has been destroyed, told the British publication, “I have deteriorated to something unrecognizable. No amount of money can ever compensate me for what has happened, the loss of contact with my friends and family.”