As it is Black History Month, I would like to commemorate and share the importance of the Windrush Generation. A generation which not only helped Britain in a time of need but, a generation that were wrongly mistreated due to the broken and unequal system of the immigration system in place today.
Who are the Windrush Generation?
Many people from Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago and other Caribbean countries were brought to the UK to fill the post-war labour shortages in the UK. This event was mainly characterised by the arrival of the ship named the MV Empire Windrush, which docked on 22nd June 1948 in Tilbury. The MV Empire Windrush carried 492 passengers, in which many of them were children. The overall number of those who belong to the Windrush Generation is unknown however, they are thought to be thousands. However, the University of Oxford estimates that the Windrush Generation are among more than 500,000 UK residents who arrived before 1971 after been born in a Commonwealth country.
Many of those who arrived and are part of the Windrush Generation undertook many jobs. Many became manual workers, drivers, nurses and cleaners. One notable figure is Sam Beaver King, a Jamaican-British campaigner who became a postman and later the first black Mayor of Southwark in London, after arriving in Tilbury in his 20s. He sadly passed away in 2016 but, he left behind a huge legacy and became a figure in representing black Britons in society. David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, describes himself as a “proud son of the Windrush” as his parents came over to the UK from Guyana.
The Windrush Scandal
In 2017, the Windrush Scandal began to emerge in which many of those who were classed as the ‘Windrush Generation’ were all wrongly deported, denied legal rights and detained. The Windrush Scandal is an example of the broken and damaging immigration system the UK Government has in place. Not only did the Home Office destroy thousands of documents meaning many lacked their documentation of proof but, in 1973 they also placed the burden of proof on those who were part of the Windrush Generations to prove their residency before the year 1973. Many of those who had lived in the UK for the majority of their lives, were now wrongfully deemed as “illegal immigrants” and “undocumented migrants”. The many thousands of people who came over from the UK from their birth country and helped rebuild the UK after the war, were now seen as unwelcome and a hostile environment was created.
The Government have yet to say how many of the Windrush Generation were deported and forced to leave but, it is predicted that the total number is in the thousands. The stories of the individuals affected by the scandal were reported by many mainstream media outlets and Caribbean leaders spoke to Theresa May, the then-Prime Minister. Amber Rudd, the then-Home Secretary was forced to resign due to the handling of events. Rudd herself called the treatment of the Windrush Generation “appalling” but failed to do much about it. On 29th April 2018, she resigned from her role. Sajid Javid was then assigned to her position and in May 2018, stated that the Home Office would commission a ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’. However, this still isn’t enough. Many of those affected developed mental health conditions, many of those were made jobless and homeless.
The Windrush Generation scandal not only highlights the structural racism many black communities face in the UK but, it also emphasises the lack of after-care for those affected. People who identified and were proud to be black and British were Othered and made to feel like aliens. The Government needs to do better and we should not stop talking about the generation which helped Britain in a time of crisis.
Featured header image by Christos Alamaniotis.