Seventy-two years ago, today, a significant moment in British history occurred. The Empire Windrush brought hundreds of Caribbean immigrants to the United Kingdom, shaping the country as it is today.
After the Second World War, a shortage in the labour market saw the UK turn to the Caribbean in hopes of filling the void and rebuilding the country after the devastation. On June 22nd, 1948, the Empire Windrush arrived at the port of Tilbury in Essex.
Known as the Windrush Generation, those who arrived between 1948 and 1973 worked heavily in the public sector, from transport services to the National Health Service (NHS). They had arrived legally under the British Nationality Act 1948 which declared that Commonwealth citizens and their children had the automatic right to live and work in the UK without need of extra documentation.
However, two years ago, a scandal emerged revealing that many of the Windrush Generation and their children were being wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and in many cases, deported to an unfamiliar country by the Home Office despite living and working in the country for several decades.
This was a result of the Hostile Environment policy that was implemented in 2012 by Theresa May during her tenure as Home Secretary. The policy made it harder for immigrants to stay in the country particularly if they didn’t have the leave to remain status. However, many of the Windrush generation didn’t have the documentation needed to prove their right in the UK as it wasn’t needed due to the government providing them the legal right to stay in the country.
It was exposed that the Home Office destroyed thousands of landing cards and other records that were proof of their arrival in 2010 which made the process of finding legal documents that much harder.
In 2019, the Windrush Compensation Scheme was launched as a way of compensating those who were impacted by the government’s failure. However, figures have shown that less than 5% of people who made claims under the scheme had been paid.
Windrush, Lessons Learned
An independent review that was published earlier this year in March by Wendy Williams found that the Home Office showed “ignorance and thoughtlessness” on the issue of race and that there was a “profound institutional failure.
In 2018, it was announced that June 22nd would be celebrated as Windrush Day to honour the generation of immigrants that shaped the UK and the many contributions they made to the country. However, there is still a long way until proper justice is given to the Windrush Generation.
Photo Credit: Sky News