The Windrush Generation vs. Theresa May
Recently, a scandal between the Prime Minister and the Caribbean community in Britain has emerged due to the continuation of a hostile environment for those considered illegal immigrants. The current situation has even involved the forced removal of migrants who have lived in the UK for most of their lives. The Gryphon discusses the Windrush generation scandal, and the hostile Conservative government policy has led to deportation.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the U.K. government invited people from the Caribbean to come to Britain and help repair the country. The first set of migrants were brought over on the ship MV Empire Windrush in 1948, enticed by job opportunities and the promise of Great Britain. In the years that followed, many of their siblings, children, parents and other relatives travelled to the UK to join their families, although many of these people travelled without appropriate documents.
The Windrush Scandal has truly come to light since The Guardian raised awareness about Albert Thompson (a pseudonym) who has been left in the dark about his potential cancer treatment. Thompson, 63, currently lives in London after moving to join his mother over four decades ago whilst she was working in the NHS. His struggle around obtaining the necessary cancer treatment stems from his lack of a British passport. Windrush generation migrants and other immigrants from the Caribbean have faced serious difficulty and hardship in recent years due to increasing investigation into their ‘Britishness’. Despite having lived and worked in Britain for the majority of their lives, Windrush generation migrants have faced a loss of employment, eviction, refusal of re-entry and even forced deportation back to their countries of origin in the Caribbean – all due to lack of appropriate documents.
“Like many other black people, for a long time I felt cheated. I felt that no matter how much I achieved and strived, I couldn’t escape the structural oppression associated with blackness”
Employers, NHS staff, landlords, jobseeker’s services and other services are made to demand evidence of people’s citizenship and/or immigration status – despite having already employed or been landlords to these individuals for years. This process stems from the policy set out by (former Home Secretary) Theresa May, which aims to make the country a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants. This has created panic for 50,000 people who failed to formally naturalise their citizenship due to travelling on their parents’ or siblings’ passports, or even in some cases travelling whilst their origin countries were still part of the British Empire.
“May’s hostile policy has created a fearful environment for all the Windrush generation… people are having their lives snatched away and their families fractured; landlords have been evicting those without sufficient documentation”
The impact of May’s inhospitable policy has caused attempts of forced deportation – such as Paulette Wilson who was sent to an immigration centre and then to Heathrow for deportation to Jamaica. Wilson’s case is unfortunately not the only instance of injustice against people who have been a part of this country for numerous years. UK residents who travel back to their origin countries – to see their sick parents before they pass away, for example – have faced difficulty with their re-entry into the UK. Leighton Joseph Robinson, 58, was refused entry back into the UK due to the fact he had been travelling on his Jamaican passport. Robinson, and numerous other Windrush generation individuals have faced struggles when travelling out of the UK and back to the Caribbean despite it being for the first time in decades. Not only do people face a struggle returning to the UK when this ‘formality’ occurs, they are then left to face the matter of unpaid bills and even loss of their homes. The impediments that Windrush generation immigrants face with their movement in and out of the UK creates an unpleasant living situation – many have been left to couch surf and unfortunately have been unable to see their sick parents before they passed away.
May’s hostile policy has created a fearful environment for all the Windrush generation; some people live their lives in complete avoidance of the government due to anxieties surrounding deportation. People are having their lives snatched away and their families fractured; landlords have been evicting those without sufficient documentation, which no longer includes tax records or evidence of employment. Loss of employment occurring from this policy contributes to surges in homelessness and makes it even more difficult for people to afford the £1,400 naturalisation fee. Ultimately, the Windrush generation are losing their jobs, their freedom to travel, their homes and most importantly their sense of Britishness.
Despite May’s apology to the Windrush Generation, individuals like Thompson still remain in immigration limbo about the next steps in their lives as Britons. It has also been uncovered that the British government were already in the know about how badly the Windrush generation would be affected by the hostile policy – suggesting that the Britishness these people once felt is no longer being taken care of by those in power.