Monday 22nd June marks Windrush Day, a chance to honour the British Caribbean community and reflect on this vital chapter in the country’s diversity.
Windrush Day, marked on the day the HMT Empire Windrush landed at Tilbury Docks, was introduced as a result of the Windrush Scandal, to remember the Windrush Generation, those from the commonwealth who were invited to the UK to help rebuild Britain after World War Two.
As we stand in solidary with those fighting for equality as part of the Black Lives Matter Movement, the treatment of the Windrush generation is just one of the many examples of systemic racism in the UK as thousands of people from Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean and Africa wrongly told they were in Britain illegally
What is the Windrush Generation and the Windrush Scandal?
The Windrush Generation refers to the citizens who arrived in the UK from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1973, at the time, Caribbean countries were part of the British Commonwealth; they were therefore automatically British citizens with the legal right to permanently live and work in the UK. Due to this, they were not given any official documents to confirm these rights.
In 2012, Theresa May’s Home Office introduced the “Hostile Environment” policy including measures to limit access to work, housing, healthcare, bank accounts and more. It is characterised by a system of citizen-on-citizen immigration checks, where NHS, landlord, banks and employers enforced immigration controls and reported those who failed to meet check. The majority of these proposals became law via the Immigration Act 2014.
Under the policies individuals were required to prove their right to remain in the UK to live and work and that this predated 1973. Those who came to the country as part of the Windrush generation were promised this right on arrival between 1948 and 1973, however the Home Office demanded evidence for every year since 1973.
As it was near-impossible to find sufficient evidence, these individuals were labelled illegal immigrants, a large number were held in immigration detention and blocked from seeing their families, while others were forcibly deported to the countries they hadn’t seen, lived in, or known since they were young children. So far the Home Office has admitted to 164 wrongful deportation cases, 11 of these individuals have since died homeless in the countries they were deported to. The Home Office, however, made a profit of £800m during the time period of these cases.
The “Windrush Scandal” came to light 5 years later, as accounts surfaced in 2017.
What has the government response been to this?
Following the exposure of the scandal in 2017, the government set up a taskforce to review the cases of citizens who are appealing their “illegal immigrant” status. The taskforce has:
The Government pledged to review the Windrush Scandal in 2018, and on 19th March 2020 the report was finally released. The report found that the Windrush Scandal was not an accident; it was a direct result of the hostile environment policy.
With only 60 individuals receiving compensation, there is still a lot to be done to take action, reflect and learn from the Windrush Scandal. Here are a few ways you can mark Windrush Day:
Use Windrush Day to learn, reflect, take action and honour the Windrush generation.