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The Windrush Immigration Scandal, Explained

Thousands of people residing in the U.K., some for over 50 years, are now in danger of removal and deportation from the country they call home.

The Windrush Generation is characterized by immigrants from the Caribbean, namely Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, who arrived in Britain any time between 1948 and 1971 in order to provide aid and more sets of working hands during the labor shortage of World War II. Like the dreamers residing in America, many of these Caribbean immigrants were only children aboard those ships, coming with their parents who served as nurses, road workers, bus drivers and other occupations at the request of the U.K. government.

It was their presence that boosted the U.K. economy behind the scenes during World War II and later started a movement of cultural awareness and diversity in Great Britain.

Despite their initial courteous greeting from the press on June 22, 1948 whilst disembarking the MV Empire Windrush boat, racism was alive and well in the ‘Mother Country.’ From segregated bars, police brutality and open racial hostility to signs reading “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs” on storefronts, it was apparent that the government’s formal welcome did not extend into the hearts of the people these immigrants would be living among.

While this generation has grown for more than 50 years now to become an integral, crucial part of the U.K.’s economy and composition, an estimated 50,000 people are now facing adversity due to the fact that many of them were not naturalized to become official citizens of Britain and they may possess no legal documents confirming their residency status. Unfortunately, a great number of Windrush children traveling under their parent’s passports never sought their own passports or papers detailing their position and the year in which they arrived. This is troubling as recent immigration laws made in 2014 dictate that landlords and health services, among others, must check one’s evidence of residence before granting them services.

These policies were originally created by Prime Minister Theresa May in order to foster a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants in the U.K. Needless to say, May’s cruel technique of taking away previously existent rights from an entire generation has produced profound and abhorrent effects on the people a part of Windrush. Many who suffer from cancer and various illnesses are unable to be treated and others have developed mental health problems including depression and anxiety due to their systemic and societal treatment. People have taken to different news sources and social media in order to express their great passion and sadness for the problem at hand.

Even though the risk of deportation has been looming since October of last year, international coverage of the Windrush dilemma came with the outbreak of the Windrush Scandal a little over a week ago. A leaked memo published by The Guardian revealed the bravado of the Home Office Department led by secretary Amber Rudd, summarizing the past year’s enforced immigrant returns and the goal for 12,800 returns during the 2017-18 time period. Rudd, who claimed to know nothing about the memo or its details despite personally setting the goal for a 10% increase in the amount of people being removed from the U.K. each year, resigned on April 29. Her statement read that she had “inadvertently misled the Home Affairs Select Committee over targets for removal of illegal immigrants.”

With Rudd gone, the discussion about the Windrush generation is still raging on as 50,000 people in the U.K. remain in limbo over whether their life as they know it will change in a moment’s notice or not.

Measures are being enforced to see that action is taken in Britain. Labour Member of Parliament David Lammy announced that he had organized 146 MPs in order to form a request that the Prime Minister undertake the issue of the Windrush generation in court. In addition to this, Patrick Vernon, historian of Caribbean lineage in the U.K., collected 100,000 signatures in a petition to expedite the process of holding a debate in parliament.

In the meantime, thousands of undocumented Windrush members will have to hold out until a decision is made, avoiding deportation while battling racism, poor health and private sectors constantly attempting to check their documents. All of this exhaustive stress, only to prove they belong to a country they’ve devoted their lives to.

Photo: The Independent

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