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22 June 2021

Windrush Day: A story of servitude, resilience & overcoming adversity

22 June is Windrush Day. Today, we remember the men & women who left their homes, families and friends to help rebuild Britain. We remember their contribution and we are forever thankful for their sacrifices.
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Windrush Day: A story of servitude, resilience & overcoming adversity

By Sandra Okae, Legal Intern

What is Windrush Day? 

The Windrush Day is commemorated on 22 June to mark the arrival of migrants from the Caribbean at the Tilbury Docks in Essex in 1948. It was estimated that approximately around 500 migrants made the laborious journey, travelling thousands of miles on a big ship called the Empire Windrush. 

The ship brought about opportunities and hope for Britain as the country was just recovering following the devastation of World War Two. 

The devastation of war also brought about jobs which was the hope that brought the Windrush generation to the UK. 

73 years on since the arrival of the empire Windrush sailed to Britain and the Caribbean communities have grown in numbers bringing about culture and diversity to what makes Britain what it is. An estimate of 500,000 people live in the UK who arrived between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries. 

The Windrush scandal

The laws in the UK are constantly changing to reflect the ever growing social, economic, political, technological changes of society. Although some of these changes are beneficial, some of them can have a detrimental consequences such as the changes in the 2012 Immigration law which saw many of the commonwealth citizen who were unable to prove their legal status in the UK subjected to deportation by the government who had enforced immigration controls on many of the institutions in the UK such as the NHS, banks etc. 

Considering that many of the Windrush generation came as children on their parents’ passport etc, many were unable to produce an official paperwork which deemed them as “illegal migrants/ undocumented migrants” and were subsequently unable to work, live or even access housing, healthcare etc as defined in the statues. 

The Compensation Scheme 

The unjust treatment of the Windrush generation provoked a national widespread condemnation and an exposure on the failings of government. Since 2018, when the scandal came out, there has been an uproar and demands for radical reforms in the UK’s immigration policy as well as compensation for the victims. The Home Office has pledged to commission a “Windrush Lessons Learned Review” to reflect on the failings of the government and to draft the appropriate actions forward. 

The Windrush scheme seeks to compensate families and individuals for the losses and the impacts that they have suffered for not being able to prove their right to live in the UK. The step-by-step process for compensation can be found on the GOV.UK website. The scheme assures that individuals/families will be compensated fairly. There is also access to free legal service for those who need legal counsel/guidance. 

What Next for Immigration Policy? 

Since the Windrush scandal, there have been demands for reform in the immigration system. Reforms to the immigration law are being introduced as part of wider changes to the statute that will enable the Home Secretary discretion to overrule residence requirements which has been a barrier to granting citizenship to people who were wrongly deported (Windrush scandal) or prevented from returning home to the UK. 

The Windrush scandal was a failure of policy, law bureaucracy and politics that should have never happened. Although compensation is put in place there is still more work that needs to be done. 

Let us take time today to reflect on the men and women who contributed to the modernisation of today’s society. 

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