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Windrush Day 22 June 2020

June 22, 2020 1:27 PM

The MV Empire Windrush docked at the Port of Tilbury on 21 June 1948, and passengers disembarked a day later on 22 June 1948.

Windrush Day marks this anniversary. Those who arrived on the Empire Windrush, their descendants and those who followed them have made and continue to make an enormous contribution to Britain, not just in the vital work of rebuilding the country and public services following World War 2 but in enriching our shared social, economic, cultural and religious life.

We were all appalled when the Windrush scandal broke in 2017 and the nation learned that the Home Office adopted a practice of seeking to deport as alleged illegal immigrants those who could not produce the necessary documentary evidence that they are entitled to live in the UK.

Because many arrived as children on their parents' passports, and the Home Office destroyed thousands of landing cards and other records, many lacked the documentation to prove their right to remain in the UK. The Home Office also placed the burden of proof on individuals to prove their residency predated 1973. The Home Office demanded at least one official document from every year they had lived here. Attempting to find documents from decades ago created a huge, and in many cases, impossible burden on people who had done nothing wrong.

Windrush Day

Falsely deemed as 'illegal immigrants' / 'undocumented migrants' they began to lose their access to housing, healthcare, bank accounts and driving licences. Many were placed in immigration detention, prevented from travelling abroad and threatened with forcible removal, while others were deported to countries they hadn't seen since they were children.

Widespread condemnation of the government's failings on the matter, with calls being made for radical reform of the Home Office and the UK's immigration policy led the then Home Secretary, Sajid Javid to announce in May 2018 the commissioning of a 'Windrush Lessons Learned Review'. Wendy Williams, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Constabulary, was tasked with carrying out an independent review.

For those affected by the scandal, justice has still not been done. There is a huge backlog of cases still to be resolved. The Government compensation scheme has made only a handful of payments. The Windrush generation is still waiting for a full, unqualified apology for the way the Home Office has treated them.

What's more, the policies that led to this scandal are still in place. The 'Hostile Environment' - which bars those without the right papers from the safety net we all rely on - hasn't even been suspended for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak, in spite of repeated calls for it, from those affected by the rules.

The review was finally published on 19 March 2020 - nearly two years since the scandal hit the headlines. The review makes absolutely clear that the Windrush scandal was the inevitable result of policies designed to make life impossible for those without the right papers. This, coupled with decades of immigration legislation explicitly aimed at reducing non-white immigration from the Commonwealth, destroyed the lives of many black and minority ethnic British people.

What is scandalous now is that the Prime Minister has responded to the Black Lives Matter movement by announcing the commissioning of yet another review. We don't need it. We need action. There have been numerous reports, containing a wide range of proposals to tackle the causes of racial inequality in the UK, over decades, but little has been done. Those recommendations need to be acted upon. Further dithering and delay is inexcusable.