A PETITION to give British citizenship to a grandma who first came to Burnley in 1968 has attracted more than 2,000 signatures.

Winnie Birkenhead, 52, has been told by the Home Office that she must prove that she is British despite living in the UK since arriving from Malaysia with her family almost 50 years ago.


The mum-of-two and grandma-of-two said that she has been left ‘very distressed’ after receiving a letter ‘out of the blue’ from the government.

Winnie came to Burnley at the age of five on her mum Ivy’s passport and with her late stepdad William Ferguson who was serving in the British Army with the Royal Signals.

The Marsden Road resident assumed that she had been granted British Citizenship but has now been told that she can’t work for up to a year while her case is reviewed by the Home Office.

Now a woman from Canada, who is living in Burnley and heard about her story online, has set up a petition which has attracted almost 2,500 signatures.

Winnie has been forced to take time off from working as a team leader for Pride Community Care and is also currently undergoing cancer treatment. She said: “I just can’t believe that this is happening.

“I’ve been married, divorced and been CRB checked in the country and I have a National Insurance number.

“Why is this happening to me now?

“I understand that the government is cracking down on illegal immigrants but this is my home and all I have ever known.”

Winnie has worked since she was 16 and previously attended Coal Clough Infants and Junior School, Walshaw High School and Burnley High School for Girls.

She also cares for her mother Ivy, who is suffering from dementia, on a daily basis.

Winnie said: “I feel really let down by the system as this is not my fault but I’m being punished.

“It’s unfair that I can’t work while this is being sorted out and I don’t know how I’m going to manage.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “All UK employers must ensure their staff have the right to work in the UK. It is down to Ms Birkenhead to regularise her immigration status and we will consider any application we receive.”