A report published by the Home Office entitled “Windrush Lessons Learned Review” has been released. It contains the findings of an independent inquiry conducted by inspector Wendy Williams into the 2018 Windrush Scandal.
The report found that the government failed to give the Windrush Generation the appropriate documents to prove their immigration status and that this led to “the Windrush generation and their children [being] poorly served by this country,” and that said failings, were “foreseeable and avoidable”. Successive government desires to appear tough on immigration expanded an already hostile environment and disregarded warnings of poor treatment. Williams commented that there is “a culture of disbelief and carelessness when dealing with [immigration] applications,” and that the overall findings of the report “demonstrate institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race.”
The Windrush Scandal was brought to light after campaigns by Caribbean diplomats, British parliamentarians and charities, and a series of articles in The Guardian newspaper. It uncovered that a minimum of 83 people were denied legal rights, wrongly detained and threatened with deportation. It also highlights how many others were wrongly deported and detained, lost their jobs and homes, and could not access the benefits and medical care they were entitled to. It is reported that most of those involved have still not received compensation and that many are still chasing the correct immigration paperwork, with which to prove their secure status in the U.K..
The people involved in the scandal, the “Windrush generation”, are African-Caribbean individuals who migrated to the U.K. (as well as North America and other parts of Europe) after WWII. They were encouraged to do so by the U.K. government as an attempt to make up losses during the war, and were given citizenship under the British Nationality Act of 1948. The name “Windrush” comes from the ship HMT Empire Windrush which brought 802 of such migrants to a port near London.
The Windrush Generation was encouraged to come to the U.K. to become part of our workforce and an integral part of British society. They were subsequently the victims of institutional racism and denied their rights. Nevertheless, the report into this has been under-represented in the media, which is mainly focussed on covering the current global pandemic. However, there are parallels to be drawn between the pandemic and the Windrush scandal.
Just weeks ago, we were told that the low-skilled worker was no longer welcome in Britain under the new post-Brexit immigration policy. These “low-skilled” jobs include low-paid care workers, agricultural workers and construction workers, jobs similar to those the Windrush Generation would have done, and jobs which are often held by immigrants. Today, we are living off the backs of these apparently “low-skilled” workers as they are a major part of the key worker group which this country is heavily leaning on during the COVID19 shutdown. When this pandemic ends, will the immigrants who perform these jobs be treated in a similar fashion to the Windrush generation? The “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness” present in U.K. governments, described by the Windrush Report, suggests that this may be the case.
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