Recently, there have been a number of articles and news bulletins about individuals from the Commonwealth who were brought to the UK from the late 1940s to 1970s as children with their parents who are now being told that they are illegal immigrants 40, 50 and even 60 years after they entered the country.
The first set of immigrants who came to the UK were over 500 people from Jamaica who arrived on the Windrushin June 1948, they answered to a number of job adverts encouraging them to come to the UK to help restore the British infrastructure that was destroyed during World War 2. The Conservative government at the time encouraged people from the West Indies to immigrate to the UK under the British Nationality Act 1948, which gave all Commonwealth citizens’ free entry into Britain. This resulted in mass immigration from a number of countries within the commonwealth such as Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica.
These immigrants took up a number of job roles within the NHS, London Transport, British Rail, Post Office as well as manual roles such as cleaning, factory workers etc. They came to the UK with their children, forsaking their homelands in the hope of building a better future for themselves, their children and future generations with some hoping to return back to their mother land to settle in retirement.
During these years both parents and children experienced racism, starting with landlords refusing to rent them accommodation, discrimination in the workplace, schools, streets and in particularly with the police. This resulted in numerous riots such as Notting Hill in 1958 and Brixton in the 1980s.
Their children were formally accepted into the country and were given full access to schools, NHS, employment and public funds. Many have contributed to the British society and have paid into the system through paying tax; national insurance and have even built their own business and employed others. They have established themselves and have integrated into British society, with some getting married and starting their own families, even buying their own homes. Throughout the years the government have changed their immigration law and as a consequence the initial British Nationality Act of 1948 whereby they had free entry to Britain their rights to remain status have evaporated into thin air whereby the Immigration Act 1971removed all rights to remain in the UK for all Commonwealth citizens who entered the UK after this date. It is believed that one of the factors that led to Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister in 1979 was that she had identified the concerns of the white British citizens concerns of increasing immigrants. In 1981 her government passed the British Nationality Act which defined that those born in Britain, their children or grandchildren were acknowledged as british citizens. This law changed encouraged a number of individuals to confirm their nationality, however there was still a large number who did not. Many did not realise that the constant changes to the UK’s immigration laws over the years would affect them because 1) when they left their homeland they were still under British rule and considered themselves to be British 2) they practically lived their entire life in the UK, still able to work and access public services.
Recently there have been a number of reporting’s and campaigns highlighting the plight of a number of individuals who have been told they need to return to their ‘country’ that they have left behind as children. This has affected Michael Braithwaite, Albert Thompson, Antony Bryan, Glenda Caesar, Paulette Wilson and otherswho have or are still fighting the Home Office to remain in the UK, and as a consequence some have lost their homes, jobs or refused access to services such as welfare benefits and the NHS (which may I add, their parents came to this country to fill the gaps of the nursing shortage some 50 plus years ago).
The question which now remains unanswered is how much people from the Windrush generation during the late 1940s to early 1970s are going through this today? It has been estimated that there are approximately 50,000 Commonwealth immigrants who could be affected by the new ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy which came into force in 2013. Recently publicity has showed that this is a far bigger problem than first anticipated and the number of individuals coming forward seeking help is rapidly increasing. This has raised awareness with 12 Caribbean Commonwealth Heads of State who requested a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss a resolution whilst they attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which will be hosted in the UK between 16 – 20 April 2018. However, this was initially declined by the Prime Minister, but due to the increasing backlash of lack of remorse and cold posterior, plus a signed letter from 140 MPs across the various political parties Theresa May has miraculously changed her mind.
As time goes on and the more exposure received, it is apparent that the longest serving former Home Secretary (whom is now our Prime Minister) and who is responsible for the enforcement of these tighter immigration policies including the removal of the protection rights to the Windrush Commonwealth immigrants is detached and non sympathetic to these individuals. It is suggested that the Caribbean Commonwealth members are more severely affected by these tight immigration rules and have been asked to jump through excessive hoops to produce more documentations or proof of the length of time they have resided in the UK than any other Commonwealth or recent EU immigration members.
The Home Office are aware that there are a number of residents who have had the right to remain in UK during the Windrush period, but due to poor administration they themselves do not hold sufficient records, if any. Since the increasing pressure and publicity of this despicable act the Home Office have published guidelineson 13 April 2018 to individuals who may be affected by this change of law. The recent flurry of movements that have taken place, have now added further questions which will now need to be answered by the government, such as how much people have been deported since this law came into effect? Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes openly admitted that the mishandling of this policy has resulted in a number of people being deported to back to their origin of birth. Unfortunately, she was unable to confirm the number and there was no mention whether their status would be reinstated in order for them to return to the UK.
In a move to resolve this matter, the Home Office have announced that they will be making urgent amendments to the policy, but not only do they need to reinstate the protection rights to the Windrush immigrants they will also need to address how they will compensate these individuals for the loss of income, stress, homes, health care and jobs they have lossed as a consequence. There is a petition and Project Windrush GoFundMeto assist with outreach work which is currently in circulation which has asked for the Home Office to give an amnesty to all Windrush minors who resided in the UK from 1948 – 1971. So far they have obtained over 100,000 signatures and an urgent parliamentary question will be raised by David Lammy, Tottenham MP regarding this issue. Please do not let this stop you from signing the petition, the more signatures attained the more chances the topic will be discussed properly and sufficient help and support is given to individuals rather than this being swept under the carpet.
June 2018, it will be 70 years since the first set of Windrush immigrants entered the UK. Like it or not, they have shaped and made the UK into what it is today. They came in good faith, relocated their families, and were upstanding members within communities, worked hard and made sacrifices for Great Britain. This law is a dishonour to the history, the hard work and memories of these Commonwealth parents and their children. Their rights and quality of living in the UK are being threatened to be revoked with the Home Office trying to banish them to a country that they no longer recognise as their home because in this governments eyes they are now surplus to requirements.
If ethnic minority people ever wondered whether the Conservative party truly cares about them as individuals, a race or a community this should be a moment for them to open your eyes – they don’t! It is evident that had this not spiralled out of her control, Theresa May would happily ignore the impact that this callous act has impeded on the Windrush generation.