Windrush ‘Lessons Learned’ means ending second class citizenship for the #WindrushGeneration their descendants and families

Movement for Justice submission to Windrush Lessons Learned Review

  1. INTRODUCTION

“Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.” MLK, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963

  • The Windrush scandal has exposed the rotting carbuncle of racism that rests at the heart of British immigration legislation. An open secret which black, Asian and immigrant communities have known for decades; the whole system of British immigration controls and Home Office decision-making is inherently racist and shaped by anti-immigrant rhetoric by sections of the media and politicians of all stripes.
  • The challenge before this review is to ensure that ‘lessons learned’ – does not become another euphemism for ‘time to move on,’ and that real, lasting and radical change to British immigration and nationality laws and rules happens. That requires a full, in depth, public inquiry into the Windrush Scandal, this Review should join the many voices calling for an Inquiry. This can achieve what the Lawrence Inquiry achieved for equalities legislation and the recognition of institutional racism in the British police.
  • Movement for Justice began campaigning on the issue of Windrush as a result of our work inside and outside Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre to get it and all detention centres shut down. In the course of that work, in April 2018, not long after the Windrush scandal broke into public consciousness, we met two women detained there, Yvonne Smith and Yvonne Williams. Aged 63 and 59, these Jamaican grandmothers have extensive British families, who came to the UK as part of the Windrush Generation; they themselves did not come to the UK until the death of their grandparents in Jamaica in the late 1990’s/00’s. They had been held in Yarl’s Wood for almost nine months when we met, separated from their families, including their children, British born grandchildren and elderly Windrush Generation parents. Trying to regularise their stay for almost 20 years, every time the Home Office told them that their family ties were not “significant” enough.
  • That’s when we realised, despite their being so intimately connected to the Windrush generation, these two ‘children of Windrush’ were not recognised as part of that generation by the Government and so were not being catered for as part of the measures to support people, the Windrush Scheme and Taskforce. Both women were given removal directions on a charter flight to Jamaica.[1] Thankfully, because of the publicity[2] about their cases, they were both released, but remain at risk of detention and removal.
  • Since then we have met many more people who fall into the category of ‘not quite’ Windrush according to the government, but who all have Windrush generation families and who are part of the interconnected web of family connections of this important generation.
  • We have included anonymised case histories in appendix A for these ‘Widen Windrush’ Cases. Three of these people have submitted applications to the Windrush Inquiry. Yvonne Smith, whose application was the first to be submitted on 25th June 2018, is still waiting for a decision 15 weeks later; none of the other 3 has yet received a decision.

The Windrush Generation – an inspiring legacy of struggle

  • The ‘Windrush Generation’ from across the Commonwealth were actively recruited, invited to come to the UK. Young, ambitious and talented people from across the commonwealth made the journey, seeing opportunity to secure their families futures and the future of their descendants. It was not an easy process, people faced great hardship, racial discrimination, violence and the pain of leaving children behind. Many managed to raise the money needed to bring all of their children to the UK but many did not, and some children stayed in their home countries with a grandparent or aunt.
  • Family life developed across countries and continents, parents sending back money, cards and gifts for their children. For some of the Windrush children who did not make it to Britain, their parents only made enough money to get home to visit when they were in their late teens or twenties because of the meagre amount they earned in Britain’s public services and factories. Arthur Curling, who arrived on the Empire Windrush summed up this difficulty “England was the easiest country to get in to and the hardest country to get out of, for the mere fact is, if you working, you never earn enough money for your fare, but at the same time you always say you always have another 10 year, 15-20 years”[3].
  • Some of the children left behind never saw one or both of their parents again. Windrush descendant Yvonne Smith was the youngest of her siblings at 4 years old, when they all left with her mother to join their father in the UK; one year her mother died. The family could not afford to bring her mothers body home to Jamaica, or to bring Yvonne or her grandmother to the UK for the funeral. Her mother died ‘rebuilding Britain’ and yet in the eyes of the Home Office Yvonne Smith does not have ‘significant family ties’ and remains at risk of detention and removal.
  • Windrush Generation families spread throughout every sector of British society, building and strengthening our pubic services and enriching our communities. Through their battle against racism they initiated sweeping changes to Britain’s equalities legislation. They joined the British working class, broke down barriers, fought racism in the unions and became an integral part of working class history and British history.
  • They are the Bristol Bus Boycotters, the Grunwick Strikers, the Civil Rights activists of the 60’s & 70’s; their children fought racist SUS laws, police brutality and, over generations, have shaped far-reaching British Equality legislation that has benefitted all sectors of society. If Britain is to do justice to this pivotal section of British society it requires more than an apology and a few passports issued. It requires deep and far reaching investigation, radical legislative change and real justice for that generation, all of their descendants and their families.

[1] The Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/windrush-deportations-jamaica-charter-flight-immigration-detention-grandmother-a8328461.html

[2] Channel 4 News https://www.channel4.com/news/grandmother-child-of-the-windrush-told-she-cant-stay-in-uk and The Independent https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/windrush-scandal-yvonne-williams-immigrants-migration-theresa-may-uk-government-a8320401.html

[3] BBC Website, testimonies from Windrush Arrivals, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/modern/arrival_01.shtml

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