During the sixties, my mother and other relatives from British colonies, moved to the UK to begin a new life. Responding to a call for skilled workers, many of them felt they were coming to the ‘motherland’ and moved to the UK to make a home, bring up their families and contribute to our society. My mother worked at the Old St John’s Hospital in Lewisham and on occasion on the paediatric ward at Lewisham Hospital. There were many others like her from across the world, and there have been many since.
The on-going Windrush scandal has seen many rightful British citizens lose everything under the Government’s ‘Hostile Environment’ Policy. After a lifetime of working, paying taxes and bringing up their children, the Windrush generation have found that the country they helped build no longer recognises them as British.
The number of those who have been wrongly deported continues to climb. At the end of August, the Jamaican Foreign Ministry reported the sad news that at least three of these people have died before officials were able to provide a safe return to the UK. I pressed the Government to accept responsibility for this and to redress this in the first week back in Parliament.
Following widespread pressure, the Government has now confirmed that the Windrush generation do have the right to remain and will be granted their rightful British citizenship. The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has paused the ‘hostile environment’ policy, which saw these citizens let down by their country. This is all welcome, but more needs to be done to heal the harm.
The Home Office is currently consulting on a compensation scheme for victims of the Windrush scandal. If you have been affected, please take part through the gov.uk website so we can begin to redress this injustice. It closes on October 11. I hope that this will lead to the establishment of a proper compensation fund to help those affected.
But if we are to truly confront this issue, we must have an independent public inquiry so that we can understand and address the full extent of the damage done. We should also take a hard look at the ‘hostile environment’ policy in a wider context, closely scrutinising its consequences and human cost. I would also urge the Government to reinstate immigration appeals, as suggested by the cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee. It is now clear that the Government got it wrong on Windrush and people must be able to defend themselves and their livelihoods in these cases.
The hardship the Windrush Generation have endured is palpable, and we are yet to understand the full price of their mistreatment. They need to see comprehensive action, not just platitudes.
See Janet’s question to the Immigration Minister on those who died after being wrongly deported:
Find full details of the Government’s Windrush compensation consultation here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/windrush-compensation-scheme
This article was originally published in the South London Press on 21 September 2018