The Windrush Scandal Explained
You get no prizes if you’ve heard the term ‘Windrush generation’ on the news this week, but a prize if you actually know what it means. That’s why we’ve written up a nifty guide for you to understand the Windrush scandal and work out what exactly is going on.
Who are the Windrush generation?
The Windrush scandal is centred around people who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971 following the end of World War Two from the West Indies. These people made up a huge portion of immigration during this time, but they arrived legally from the Commonwealth to help rebuild the UK following the devastation of the Second World War.
It is the children on board the ship MV Empire Windrush, which brought 492 passengers from Jamaica, Trinidad, Tabego and other Carribbean islands, who are at the centre of the scandal. Many of the passengers on the ship were children, and so came over to the UK – again, legally – with their parents.
Why has the Windrush scandal happened?
When current Prime Minister Theresa May was Home Secretary from 2010 until her succession to the highest political office in Britain in 2016, she introduced a crackdown on immigration. She created what she called a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants by making it harder for people in the UK unofficially to get access to free healthcare and other services in the UK without proper documentation.
This crackdown had a backlash on the Windrush generation children, many of whom had no proper documentation to prove they arrived in the UK legally. Many travelled on their parents’ passports but all were given indefinite and guaranteed status to remain in Britain.
It is the Home Office which is at fault here, as we will see next.
What has the Home Office done wrong?
Basically, the Home Office – which is in charge of immigration among other things – failed to keep a record of those granted indefinite status to remain in the UK. They have no documents to confirm any status, which means the Windrush generation is finding it hard to prove – under new crackdowns on immigration – that they have the right to live and work in the UK.
In 2010, when Theresa May launched her “hostile environment” strategy, the Home Office destroyed the landing cards (essential documents proving the date of which many Windrush children arrived in the UK) of the Windrush generation.
What is the reality of life for the Windrush generation?
The Windrush scandal is a scandal because of what it has meant for people who have rebuilt the UK post-WWII and contributed to the greater good of this nation all their lives.
There have been cases of people in the Windrush generation being refused cancer treatment, being told they can no longer work for the NHS due to the fact they could not prove they were in the UK legally (despite the fact they’d worked there for just under half a century), being denied pensions they are absolutely entitled to and, in an unknown number of cases, deported by mistake to a country where they have no surviving relatives or intimate knowledge of.
What is the government doing about it?
Current Home Secretary Amber Rudd is facing calls to resign from her position due to the Windrush scandal. This is due to the possibility that many of the deportations have happened under her watch. However, the Prime Minister is also under fire for her part in destroying the landing cards of the Windrush generation in 2010. She has responded to this, claiming that it was the Labour Party who destroyed the cards in 2009. There is no evidence for this, however.
Both Theresa May and Amber Rudd have apologised and there have been some promises of reimbursement of some “reasonable” legal costs for the Windrush generation.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Jamaican Prime Minister have both called for the Windrush scandal to result in compensation being given to those caught up in this awful, messy and stressful state of affairs.