The Windrush generation refers to the immigrants who were invited to the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Barbados. The name comes from the ship MV Empire Windrush, which docked at Tilbury on June 22 1948 bringing nearly 500 Jamaicans to the UK.
Windrushers came to the UK at the invitation of the British government, which was facing a labour shortage due to the destruction caused by World War II. Most came on British Passports. Regardless, as explained in Wendy Williams’ Windrush Lessons Learned Review, ‘the 1971 Immigration Act entitled people who had arrived from Commonwealth countries before January 1973 to the “right of abode” or “deemed leave” to remain in the UK. But the government gave them no documents to demonstrate this status. Nor did it keep records. This, in essence, set a trap for the Windrush generation’.
By the mid 2000s, the Government’s Hostile Environment policy, created to show a tougher stance on immigration, had spiralled out of control, raising the bar of evidential proof to heights that were impossible to reach. A Parliamentary report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights concluded that the Home Office required standards of proof from members of the Windrush generation about their leave to remain which were impossible for them to meet.
Consequently, Windrushers who had spent their entire lives in the UK were wrongly thrown in immigration detention and sometimes deported out of the country and everything in between, e.g. family separation, job losses, withdrawal of state benefits, zero access to medical treatment, homelessness and so on. All of this after Windrushers had given their best years to the benefit of Great Britain.
The then Home Secretary publicly promised to right the wrongs of the Windrush Scandal and launched a compensation scheme on 4 April 2019. £200m has been set aside for this as a start. He also set up a Windrush Task Force, which is working with charities and recognised community groups to raise awareness of the scheme around the country.
CACFO is engaged in this programme, working in partnership with Windrush Action, a community group that is seeking fair and just compensation for victims. We have organised two public meetings so far (14 Sept and 9 Nov 2019). The Task Force was able to provide information on who may be eligible for compensation, what kind of impacts and losses are covered by the scheme and how to apply. They also explained how immigration status can be settled.