Yesterday the Home Secretary Sajid Javid apologised to 18 members of the Windrush generation after a review discovered that many may have been wrongly removed from the country.
The Windrush generation refers to the group of over 500,000 Commonwealth citizens who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean after the Second World War.
Given that the countries that these people originated from were under British rule, their inhabitants were considered to be British according to the 1948 British Nationality Act and the United Kingdom their ‘motherland’.
This started a wave of free Migration from Caribbean countries to the UK until the 1971 Immigration Act which confirmed that Commonwealth citizens who had lived and worked in the country for five years had a right to remain indefinitely in the country.
The 1981 British Nationality Act ensured that children and grandchildren of members of the Windrush generation born before the 1st January 1983 in the UK had the right to abode within the country.
The benefits of having ‘the right to abode’ are that you can live and work in the United Kingdom without restriction, though many members and descendants of the Windrush generation cannot provide documentation that confirms their citizenship.
According to a report published by the House of Commons on July 3rd, no government until now had set out comprehensive policies to ensure that these cohorts of people had their legal status fully documented.
These problems were further increased by The 2014 Immigration Act, which made it harder for illegal immigrants to access public services or enter the labour market.
In the midst of this confusion, there were many who paid the literal and psychological price for the government’s mistakes.
One included Judy Griffith, who explained in her Guardian article how she joined her parents from the UK in Barbados in 1963, though in 2014 after her passport with evidence of leave to remain was stolen, she was unable to work or travel.
“How do you calculate compensation for the hours I sat waiting to talk to someone in the Hhome Office? Or the fact that I couldn’t visit my mother when she was dying in Barbados?”
Chanté Joseph, an author at gal-dem magazine, and a woman of Caribbean descent noted on an episode of the grapevine, a YouTube talk show, which discusses issues faced by black people across the diaspora that the situation although sad, isn’t surprising:
“It’s just testament to the way that the UK doesn’t care about immigrants; they came here when they were young, productive and contributing to the workforce but as soon as the state had to assume responsibility for them, it was like, ‘Thanks for the help; we’ll see you guys later!’”
Given that 164 people may have been wrongly removed or detained, according to the Home Office’s detailed analysis of over 12,000 immigration cases, it appears that Javid’s apology may not be enough for the pain and financial suffering the Windrush generation continue to face.