By ANN MONTAGUE
— LONDON — Every day here in Britain there is more news about the Windrush scandal. Workers arriving in the United Kingdom between 1948 and 1973 from Caribbean countries have been labeled the “Windrush Generation.” This refers to the ship HMT Empire Windrush, which first arrived in England in June 1948, bringing workers primarily from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to rebuild Britain as a result of labor shortages after World War II.
Many brought children with them. The influx ended with the passage of the 1971 Immigration Act, which said that people who were Commonwealth citizens (coming from British colonies) before that time could remain in Britain. The Migratory Observatory at Oxford University estimates there are 500,000 people residing in Britain who arrived from a Commonwealth country before 1971.
Now they are being told that they need evidence of their status in order to keep their jobs, get treatment from the National Health Service, rent property, and remain in the country. However, the Home Office failed to keep paperwork on the new residents; landing cards of Windrush Generation people were destroyed. Moreover, numbers of young people came to Britain while listed only on their parents’ passports.
Many who came to Britain as children have been told they have to leave the only country they have known. Every day a new tragedy hits the news. People who are in the middle of cancer treatment are told that their benefits have ended; others have lost their jobs, and some have already been sent to countries they never lived in.
Prime Minister Teresa May and her Conservative Party (Tories) are under the gun for immigration policies that are being held responsible for the suffering of the Windrush Generation. These policies are explicitly based on creating a “hostile environment” for immigrants in Britain.
May answered criticism by accepting that there might be flaws in the implementation of some aspects of the policies but not with the policies themselves. But this was not enough, as the victims continued to explain publicly the injustice of their cases.
The Labour Party pressured for the resignation of Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary responsible for implementing the policies. Labour Party Members of Parliament (MPs), some of whom are part of the Windrush Generation, are taking the lead in organizing rallies in the communities where many of the victims live. They are supporting a mass petition drive, which so far has obtained over 130,000 signers, calling for amnesty for the Windrush Generation and demanding a halt to all deportations.
Amber Rudd resigned the night before the large Stand Up to Racism rally on April 30 at Westminster. She had been claiming that there are no targets for the number of people to be deported. But in a letter that she wrote to the prime minister in January 2017, which was leaked to The Guardian, she said that deportations would increase by 10 percent.
Rudd has been replaced by Sajid Javid, who has pledged to make sure that members of the Windrush Generation are treated with fairness. But at this point the entire Immigration Act has come into question. People are now calling for “scrapping May’s racist act.” Diane Abbott, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, made clear who is ultimately responsible: “The change in Home Secretary will mean nothing unless Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ policy is finally brought to an end.”
Labour MP Dawn Butler told Sky News that Theresa May’s immigration policy is institutionalized racism. Butler, the daughter of Jamaican parents, clarified: “She is the leader, she is presiding over legislation discriminating against a whole group of people who came from the Commonwealth, who suffered racism when they came over, and now they are having to re-live that trauma again because of Theresa May. Her policies have disproportionately affected people of color.”
All this is happening less than a week before important council elections throughout London are to be held. Labour already is set to make new gains; polling has just come out that 75% of Black and minority Londoners are backing Labour. According to Joe Murphy, political editor of the Evening Standard, those trying to reform the racist image of the Tory party are looking at a number of close races, and they admit that their party is toxic with Black Londoners as a result of the deportation of Windrush migrants.
There will be 32 borough elections. A survey commissioned by Queen Mary University in London shows Conservatives trailing behind Labour by a huge 22 point gap. This includes Barnet, which they predict Labour will win although the Conservatives have been in control since 1964. A number of other boroughs are very close between Labour and Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats (the party most similar to the U.S. Democratic Party) are predicted to continue at just 11% of the vote.