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Who are the Windrush generation and why are they facing deportation?

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Empire Windrush
Empire Windrush

MV Empire Windrush arrives as Tilbury Docks in June 1948

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Empire Windrush

UK government censured over treatment of the British citizens

In Depth
Monday, April 16, 2018 - 3:20pm

Theresa May’s government is facing widespread criticism over its treatment of the so-called Windrush generation - long-term immigrants who are being threatened with deportation despite having the right to remain in the UK.

An online petition demanding an amnesty for anyone who arrived in Britain as a child from Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971 has attracted more than 135,000 signatures and “could trigger a debate in Parliament”, reports HuffPost.

In response to the outrage, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes has insisted that “we have absolutely no intention of asking anyone to leave who has the right to remain here”, but admitted that the tightening of immigrations laws in recent years has caused problems for some. 

In an article for The Voice newspaper, Nokes says: “The overwhelming majority of the Windrush generation already have the immigration documents they need, but some – through no fault of their own – have not.

“Those are the people we are working hard to help now.”

But who are the Windrush generation and why are they facing deportation?

Who are the Windrush generation?

The group comprises British citizens who came to the UK from the Commonwealth as children following the Second World War, and whose rights were guaranteed in the Immigration Act of 1971.

Named the Windrush generation after British ship the Empire Windrush, which arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex with 492 Caribbean passengers in 1948, “many have made the UK their home for their entire lives”, says the Channel 4 News website.

However, under new immigation laws, these people must now prove continuous residence in the UK since 1973, something that has turned out to be almost impossible for those who have not kept up detailed records.

As a result, some are being denied access to state healthcare, made redundant from their job and even threatened with deportation, The Guardian reports. 

Guy Hewitt, the high commissioner for Barbados, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that he feels that the UK is saying to “people of my region: you are no longer welcome”.

Why is this happening?

The problem follows the ending of a previous system of Commonwealth citizenship and free movement, when status was conferred by law on people to safeguard them but some did not acquire the necessary papers, according to immigration law blog Free Movement.

This lack of papers was then exacerbated by May’s “hostile environment policy, under which landlords, hospitals, businesses and civil society have been forced to proactively prove that their employees, tenants and service users have the right to be in the United Kingdom”, says the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush.

The policy was introduced to achieve the Government’s lower migration targets, by making “living in the UK so unbearable that immigrants will decide to leave of their own accord”, says Bush.

What happens next?

May will meet Caribbean leaders this week to “discuss the plight of the Windrush generation”, the PM’s spokesperson said today. That “amounts to a very swift U-turn”, says The Guardian’s Pippa Crerar, as Downing Street had initially refused a request for a formal meeting.

The Home Office is also due to announce changes to the policy aimed at finding the “correct solution” for those facing action because they lack paperwork.

Cabinet member Sajid Javid said that the Government “is looking into this urgently”, following calls for action from senior Labour and Tory MPs.

However, “while everyone can agree on the need for a solution, the only viable way out – a complete rethink of the Government’s immigration policy – is considerably more divisive”, says Bush.

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