Windrush scandal explained: Who are the Windrush generation and what happened to them?

PRINCE Charles has spoken of the "debt of gratitude" the nation owes the Windrush generation as he heralded Britain's diversity as its "greatest strength".

Thousands of people from the Caribbean who arrived in the UK as children were threatened with deportation in what became known as the Windrush Scandal.

Who are the Windrush generation?

The “Windrush generation” is a phrase linked to the ship Empire Windrush, which on June 22, 1948, brought hundreds of Caribbean immigrants to Tilbury Docks, Essex.

Britain was seeking nurses, railway workers and others to help it rebuild after the devastation of the Second World War.

According to the National Archives, between 1948 and 1970 nearly half a million people left their homes in the West Indies to live in Britain.

The West Indies consists of more than 20 islands in the Caribbean, including Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad.

When is Windrush Day?

Windrush Day in 2020 is today, Monday June 22.

In a video message marking Windrush Day, Prince Charles paid tribute to the country's Caribbean community for its contribution to life in the UK.

The royal said: "Today, as we honour the legacy of the Windrush generation, and the invaluable contribution of black people in Britain, I dearly hope that we can continue to listen to each other's stories and to learn from one another.

"The diversity of our society is its greatest strength and gives us so much to celebrate."

Windrush Day marks 72 years since the Empire Windrush arrived in Essex, bringing around 500 people from Jamaica, at the invitation of the British government,

Charles's message comes amid the Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country and the world in recent weeks, following the death of George Floyd in the US.

How many people arrived and are they here illegally?

Nearly half a million people left their homes in the West Indies – including Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad – to live in Britain between 1948 and 1970.

Many of the child migrants travelled on their parents’ passports so it is difficult to say exactly how many people belong to the Windrush generation.

They have fallen victim to rule changes in 2012 aimed at stopping people from overstaying.

Their legal status changed overnight despite living, working and paying tax in Britain for decades.

They were told they needed evidence including passports to continue working or getting NHS treatment.

But most arrived on parents’ passports and never applied for travel documents.

Their landing cards had also been destroyed in 2010 while Theresa May was the Home Secretary.

Mechanic Albert Thompson, 63, who came to Britain as a child, was first evicted from his home and then quoted £54,000 to pay for radiotherapy to tackle cancer.

He said: “They’re asking me to prove I’m British. I feel abandoned.”

It was dubbed the Windrush scandal as members of the Windrush generation and their children were wrongly detained and even deported.

Others were denied access to official documents, healthcare, work, housing benefits and pensions – despite living legally in the UK.

The scandal fully emerged between late 2017 and mid-2018 after a series of reports about people forced into crisis because the government didn’t accept their legal right to remain.

Those affected were from a group of British people who held what became CUKC (citizens of the UK and Colonies) citizenship, and their children.

A report into the scandal, published in March 2020, found it was "foreseeable and avoidable", with victims let down by "systemic operational failings" at the Home Office.

The department demonstrated "institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness" towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation, the review found.

In 2018, on the 70th anniversary of the arrival of MV Empire Windrush, Baroness Berridge told the House of Lords that “what they found in 1948 was not a motherland ready to receive a child from far away, but rejection, mistrust, loneliness and, all too often, violence.

“Many people today in the UK are unaware of this cruelty, so celebrating such an anniversary is also about teaching people about the past.”

What have politicians said about the scandal?

The Government’s lacklustre response to the Windrush scandal continues to be controversial.

Ex-Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said some migrants from the Caribbean might have been removed 50 years after their arrival in Britain.

She apologised for the debacle in 2018, adding: “I feel ashamed the Home Office got it so badly wrong over a long period. I’m really conscious that we have a massive piece of work to do.”

Labour MP David Lammy called it a “day of national shame”, and said the government was trying to make a “hostile environment” for migrants.

Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd apologised for the “appalling” treatment of Windrush citizens by her own department, which “has become too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual".

She later quit her post, saying she "inadvertently misled" MPs over targets for removing illegal immigrants.

Ex-PM Theresa May told Caribbean leaders in 2018 that she was "genuinely sorry" the Home Office had threatened to boot out Commonwealth citizens' children.

She promised to protect Windrush Brits, saying: “We have made absolutely clear that the Windrush generation have a right to be here, they are British, they are part of us – the problem at the time was they were not documented with that right, and we are putting that right.”

A new Home Office taskforce was then created to help those affected.

In August 2018, the then Home Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed for the first time that 18 middle-aged and elderly Caribbean immigrants were wrongly detained.

He admitted 11 of them were wrongly removed from the UK and sent back to their country of birth – even though they qualified for British citizenship.

Mr Javid said: "I would like to personally apologise to those identified in our review and am committed to providing them with the support and compensation they deserve."

In March 2020, an independent report sharply criticised the government for the way it treated long-term UK residents who were wrongly caught up in a government drive to reduce illegal immigration.

Legal Windrush migrants had been denied housing, jobs or medical treatment because of requirements that landlords, employers and doctors check people’s immigration status.

Others were told by the government that they were in Britain illegally and had to leave.

Lead author Wendy Williams, a lawyer and former inspector of police, said “members of the Windrush generation and their children have been poorly served by this country.

“They had every right to be here and should never have been caught in the immigration net.

The report said the Home Office showed “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness” towards the issue of race and the history of the mostly Caribbean immigrants involved that are “consistent with some definitions of institutional racism".

A new working group has been set up to "right the wrongs" suffered by the Windrush generation, Priti Patel announced in June 2020.

The Home Secretary said she would chair the Windrush Cross-Government Working Group with Bishop Derek Webley as part of the Government's efforts to address the scandal.

The group's findings will influence the Home Office's response to the independent report which slammed the department's "system operational failings".

Ms Patel said: "It is right that we advance these issues in a constructive, sensitive and responsible way.

"We know that the best way to make sure we reach all those affected is by listening to them and hearing their voices, including how best to address the wider challenges that disproportionately affect those from BAME backgrounds.

"From issues affecting education, work and health, this group will support Government to deliver practical solutions as well as advising on the design of the Windrush Community Fund scheme and response to the Wendy Williams review."

Her announcement came days after the official human rights watchdog said it was launching legal action to probe the Home Office's "hostile environment" policy which led to the Windrush scandal.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said on June 12, 2020, that it would “review how the Home Office complied with equality law when implementing the ‘hostile environment’ immigration measures”.

Will the Windrush generation get compensation?

Former PM Theresa May said that members of the Windrush generation who have been treated unfairly will be compensated "where appropriate".

But, shocking figures released last month showed less than 5 per cent of claims under the Government's Windrush Compensation Scheme have been paid out, with just 60 people receiving £362,996 in the first year.

Dawn Hill, who chairs the Brixton-based Black Cultural Archives, said the Home Office must improve how it works with community organisations to ensure people eligible for compensation actually receive it.

Will the Windrush generation be granted British citizenship?

Under the 1971 Immigration Act, all Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain.

But the Home Office did not keep a record of those granted leave to remain or issue any paperwork confirming it, meaning it is difficult for the individuals to prove they are in Britain legally.

The government now says that “if you’re settled in the UK but do not have a document to prove it, you may be eligible to apply to the ‘Windrush Scheme’.

“It’s free to apply.

“You might also be entitled to apply for citizenship for free if you’re a Commonwealth citizen who settled in the UK before 1 January 1973, or you’re the child of someone who did.”

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