Callous racism shown to Windrush generation

THERESA MAY the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Amber Rudd have been forced to apologise in Parliament over the callous and racist treatment of up to 50,000 people who came to Britain from the West Indies between 1948 and 1971 at the invitation of the British government and settled here. They are now being told they need documentary proof that they are not illegal immigrants or they face deportation.

Most of these people were children when they arrived and were included in their parents’ passports. Since then many of them have never sought a passport of their own. They came here before the West Indies were granted independence, as British subjects entitled to live anywhere in the Commonwealth, to help rebuild Britain after the Second World War. Over the years they have played a major role in staffing the NHS and keeping public transport running in major cities.

In 1973 a new Immigration Act was passed that removed the automatic right of Commonwealth citizens to live in Britain but it included a clause giving the absolute right to those already here to live here forever.

But now, if they apply for a job, a passport, a driving licence, a bank account, a pension or NHS care they are being asked to prove they have lived here consistently for all those years with up to four pieces of documentation {for every year} they have been here. And Theresa May, first as Home Secretary and now as Prime Minister, has gone out of her way to make it almost imposCallous racism shown to Windrush generationsible for them to do this.

They have been trapped by a three-prong Government strategy that started in 2010 when May, as Home Secretary, allowed the destruction of the archived landing card slips of all those immigrants who came from the West Indies between 1948 and 1973. These could have validated all the current victims.

The Labour MP David Lammy said: “This revelation from a whistleblower reveals that the problems being faced by the Windrush generation are not down to one-off bureaucratic errors but as a direct result of systemic incompetence, callousness and cruelty within our immigration system. “It is an absolute disgrace that the Home Office has destroyed these documents and then forced Windrush-generation migrants to try and prove their status, threatening them with deportation and stripping them of their rights.”

Then in 2014, while the Tories were busy playing the race card to win elections, May ordered a massive clamp down on illegal immigration by turning employers and public services into an extension of the border and immigration police. She put a legal burden on employers, landlords and public services to demand proof of legal status from job applicants or people applying for a wide spectrum of services — including health care. Employers who were discovered giving jobs to illegal immigrants could themselves be prosecuted, fined and even jailed.

And of course, it was always those with brown or black faces who were asked to provide the relevant documents. In 2014 the 1973 Immigration Act was changed retrospectively so that those who arrived between 1948 and 1973 had the right to remain here permanently — but only if they had the documentation to prove when they arrived and that they had lived here continuously ever since. They would have to apply to the Home Office for a special biometric identity card. But this change was not widely publicised, nor were the ID cards easy to get for those on low incomes. So just as the generation that arrived here as children all those years ago is reaching retirement age and needing more healthcare, they are being told that unless they can provide these special ID cards or other proof, they are illegal and face deportation. The National Front in its hey day could not have thought up a more callous and brutal programme of repatriation. Some have been deported already and many others threatened with it. May and Rudd could not answer how many.

It was the governments of the West Indian countries coming together to protest at the forced arrival of elderly deportees with no local family or contacts who forced May to confront the shocking results of her policies.

At first May refused to meet them but she was made to back down, apologise and promise that the persecution of these British citizens would cease. But how that will happen is not certain.

Rudd has announced the setting up of a task force to make it easier for these people to prove their identity. But Albert Thompson, aged 63, who arrived in 1973 as a teenager and who now has life-threatening prostate cancer, is still being denied vital NHS treatment unless he can pay £54,000 in advance — because he is still regarded he is still regarded as an illegal immigrant.