Colin Graves, the chairman of the ECB, has offered to help Collis King in his immigration fight, after it emerged the West Indian has been forced to return to Barbados while applying for a visa to live in the UK alongside his British wife.
King, who starred in West Indies’ 1979 World Cup final victory, has spent more than 40 years living and working in the UK, alongside his native Barbados. But now, aged 67, he has been left in limbo after being told he could not submit an application for a spousal visa while still in the country, and given 14 days to return to the Caribbean.
King’s story has emerged following a controversial crackdown by the UK Home Office, although it is distinct from the issues affecting members of the Windrush generation who came to live and work in Britain after the Second World War. According to the Telegraph, King said he had been “treated like a criminal”.
Graves was previously chairman of Dunnington CC in Yorkshire, where King has played and coached for 20 years, becoming a popular figure on the club scene. He has offered to act as a referee for King and write a letter of support.
“I was staggered that his application was thrown out without any further investigation,” Graves told the newspaper. “Someone just looked at it and said, ‘On your bike’ and he was out. Nobody seemed to bother to look at it. It was cold and that is what upset me. They did not look at the individual, it was just another number on a file.
“From a cricket point of view in Yorkshire he has been a colossus. He is known around all the clubs and we will do everything we can from a cricket point of view because he is helping with what we are trying to achieve in the recreational game.”
King has been unable to play for Dunnington this summer, and has spent the last four months waiting to hear about his status. Having been told he had to return to Barbados, he also suffered the indignity of having his passport taken away at the airport, and only returned when his flight landed in Bridgetown.
“I felt like I was treated like a criminal,” he told the Telegraph. “It has really shaken me that after all that time that I can’t stay. It really hit me for six.”
An attacking batsman who played nine Tests and 18 ODIs, King hit 86 from just 66 balls as he and Viv Richards demolished England in the 1979 World Cup final. Although World Series Cricket and a rebel tour of South Africa ended his international career, he became a much-loved performer in the northern leagues of England, as well as turning out in county cricket for Glamorgan and Worcestershire.
Having previously travelled regularly to the UK on a visitor visa, King fell foul of the “hostile environment” cultivated by immigration officials after submitting his application for a spousal visa last year.
“We tried to get some help at the embassy in Barbados but it is all done online – there is hardly anybody in Barbados to give you any help,” he said. “I have given all the information they asked for and more. I have waited and waited and nothing has happened.
“I have been playing cricket in the UK for many years but I have always come back when my visa stated. I have never stayed longer than I was due to stay. If I had six months to play in the leagues, I would always come back on time. Never once in 44 years have I overstayed my time.
“I was not born a British citizen but I have been going to Britain long enough to feel part of the English set-up. You cannot come to a country for so many years without loving the place. I have been coming and going, loving the country and that is the sad thing, really. When I tell people what’s going on, they say: ‘That can’t be right.’ But it is right because here I am, stuck in Barbados not knowing when this will end.”
Another West Indies-born former cricketer, Richard Stewart, who played for Middlesex in the 1960s, has faced a similar struggle in his attempts to receive a British passport. Stewart arrived in England in 1955, aged 10, and has lived there ever since, but was only told this week that he had been granted citizenship.