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The Untold Story of the Windrush generation

File photo of Jamaican immigrants being welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office.

Britain celebrated Windrush day on the 22nd of June, honouring and felicitating a generation of immigrants from the Caribbean who ended up in the UK sometime during the late 1940s. 

The British government, in recent years, has been the subjected of conversation as the ‘hospitality’ given to the individuals of the Windrush generation and their descendants have come into light.

Who are the Windrush generation? 

The Carribbeans were invited by the British government to lay roads, drive busses, clean hospitals and nurse the sick during the late 1940s. This was mainly to rebuild the United Kingdom immediately after the Second World War.

The preliminary Windrush generation arrived aboard the Empire Windrush in June 1948 and according to history they landed at Tilbury Docks, about 20 miles from London. The passengers were mainly from Jamaica. They were the soon to be ‘symbol of seismic demographic’ changes, at the time. Thousands of people arrived for menial work from Commonwealth countries.

File photo of the Empire Windrush ship.

The migrants who arrived legally were subjected to a new immigration law, which came into force in 1973, giving Commonwealth citizens and their children automatic Permanent Citizenship.

In late 2017, however, a raft of cases were reported in which individuals who had arrived in the UK from Commonwealth countries before 1973, and sometimes their descendants, were struggling to prove their citizenship status under tough new immigration laws billed as a “hostile environment” policy. Many of them did not possess the legal documentation as they were never required to have it before. Some were even denied medical care, housing facilities and were deported or threatened of deportation.

The government’s reaction 

Britain’s Prime Minister of 2018 Theresa May, publicly announced an apology for her government’s treatment of some Caribbean immigrants and acknowledged that those who were deported were still welcome in the country. Home Secretary, Sakid Javid announced a compensation programme for those who had been wrongfully detained or deported from the country. The programme, however, was a fiasco as only minute number of claimants received compensation.

In February 2020, the deadline for applications was extended for a further two years. The CNN Savanta ComRed Poll published an article that predicted that a scandal like the Windrush could occur again in the UK, with 55% of Black respondents saying they do not trust the UK government that something similar would not happen again.

The Windrush generation is ironically a part of the UK’s history of racial conduct and the CNN also polled attitudes to UK government actions to address it.

The poll witnessed 64% of Black respondents saying the UK hasn’t done enough to address historical racial injustice, compared with 35% of White respondents.


The Birth of Windrush Day

From the top, hopeful Jamaican boxers Charles Smith, Ten Ansel, Essi Reid, John Hazel, Boy Solas and manager Mortimer Martin arrive at Tilbury on the Empire Windrush.

The inaugural Windrush Day was acknowledged and celebrated on the 22nd of June 2018. The celebration is currently funded through grants provided by the government, community events, exhibitions and publications. It exists to “pay tribute to the outstanding and ongoing contribution of the Windrush Generation and their descendants,” the government said.

In March of this year, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick commended the invaluable serviced catered by the Windrush generation.

“British Caribbean communities have made Britain a better, more prosperous country in so many ways,” he said.

“From the communities they have built to the public services they have supported and led, and the arts and culture they have enriched, they have made an incredible contribution to their country.”

Images Courtesy of: CNN

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