On Windrush Day - there is something you must do...
Updated: Jun 30, 2021
On Windrush Day, today (22 June), we celebrate the contribution of so many from the Caribbean that responded to the UK government’s request for help to rebuild post-war Britain. They came, suffered ongoing racial abuse, but struggled through, becoming part of the nation’s backbone, fulfilling so many of our keyworker roles, which many of their children and grandchildren still fulfil today.
In this time of pandemic, we have reason to be grateful again, as many of them, their children and grandchildren (many also in keyworker roles), have disproportionately suffered and died in the frontline of the battle against the virus. Ten weeks in a row, the nation 'clapped for carers/key workers' in gratitude. Thank you – we owe you so much.
And yet, the way we have treated this generation in recent years has made me feel ashamed to be British. And I suspect that anyone that watched the BBC docudrama Sitting in Limbo last week will feel the same. And if you think the Windrush Scandal was a bad mistake that we have learned from, please note that the author of the Independent Review into the scandal has today stated that there is a “grave risk” of this scandal being repeated.
If you are still unsure whether systemic racism is at work in UK society, cast your eye over the following sequence of events between 2010 and today about the Windrush scandal.
Ten Windrush facts you need to know:
1. 2010 - Home Office destroys landing cards collected from immigrants arriving in this country between 1950-1971. For many, this is the only document that proved their date of arrival in the UK.
2. 2012 - Government announces ‘Hostile Environment Policy’ for illegal immigrants. Employers, banks, Landlords, the NHS threatened with fines of up to £10,000 if they didn’t check for ID and proof of legal residence in the UK before offering services.
3. 2013 - Hundreds receive letters from the Home Office, saying they had no right to be in the UK, some were told to arrange to leave the UK at once.
4. 2013 - Home Office warned that many Windrush generation residents were being wrongly treated as illegal immigrants and that older Caribbean born people were being targeted. Consequences: the children of those invited to help rebuild Britain after WWII started to lose jobs and homes, had benefits cut off, refused NHS treatment, placed in detention centres and deported (many had worked for up to 50 years in NHS and other key worker roles).
5. 2018 - Request from Heads of 12 Caribbean nations to meet the Prime Ministerat the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to discuss the scandal refused.
6. 2018 - Over 5000 potential Windrush cases reported to Parliament
7. 2019 - Home Office confirms: 164 of the Windrush generation had been wrongly detained, 83 wrongly deported and at least 13 of these had died before the Home Office admitted the mistake. Home Office orders a review.
8. March 2020 - Home Office released the Windrush Lessons Learned Review - independent inquiry report.Conclusions:
- The Home Office showed an inexcusable "ignorance and thoughtlessness"
- What had happened had been "foreseeable and avoidable"
- Regulations were tightened "with complete disregard for the Windrush generation"
- Officials had made irrational demands for multiple documents to establish residency “They had no reason to doubt their status, or that they belonged in the UK”
9. May 2020 – 1275 applications to the Windrush Compensation Scheme so far. Of these only 60 had received compensation – less than 5% of cases. Just £362,996 paid out so far from compensation pot of £200+ million. Many report the process to be demeaning and a bureaucratic nightmare to navigate and have given up.
10. Today - 22 June 2020 - Warning from author of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, Wendy Williams: there is still a "grave risk" of the scandal being repeated.
Three things you can do...
If you are a White person like me living in the UK who has been profoundly challenged by the murder of George Floyd to stand up and become an active anti-racist (is there truly any other kind?), then here is something you can do - three emails/letters you can write:
1. Write to your MP – asking him or her to use his or her influence to ensure that full compensation is paid, and quickly, to those that have been treated shamefully through this scandal: those that have lost jobs, become homeless, have had their families torn apart, that were shamefully detained and or deported simply for serving our country faithfully for 50 years or more.
2. Write to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel. As well as the above, ask her to fully implement the findings of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review and to streamline the process of applying for compensation to make it simpler to apply and prioritise dealing with the backlog of applications. Also, ask her how she is going to ensure that the Inquiry author’s claim today (22/06/2020) that there is a ‘grave risk’ of the same thing happening again, will not come true.
3. Write to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. As well as ensuring the above, ask him to implement the findings of the many reviews that have revealed systemic racism in Government, rather than setting up another review. For a list of recent reviews - see the BBC’s Reality Check article: Black Lives Matter: Have racial inequality reviews led to action?