(Photo by Charles Hewitt/Getty Images)
The terrible consequences of bad government policy on individuals is never more apparent than in the actions of the Home Office. The Cameron government’s attempted to address the rising public anxiety about immigration by setting a target to bring net migration below 100,000. It was an arbitrary number and a policy almost impossible to achieve, but was potentially electorally fruitful amidst controversy about ever rising numbers.
To bring about a reduction in immigration a set of policies called the “hostile environment” was introduced, designed to pressurise migrants to prove their rights to remain and pushing them to leave. Theresa May supported the policy and as Home Secretary pushed the Home Office to do whatever it could to achieve the 100K target.
The result of this concerted effort to implement an arbitrary and ill thought out policy is a shameful level of insensitivity and inhumanity being shown towards people that have made a home in this country are being treated wretchedly. It’s a national embarrassment.
EU nationals have already been on the receiving end of the Home Office’s hostility, despite having come to this country under EU free movement rules, and despite widespread calls for their rights to be guaranteed.
Now, shockingly, the Home Office is targeting the ‘Windrush generation’, the people who came from the West Indies to Britain in 1948 to work and fill gaps in the labour market.
Thousands of people who arrived in the UK as children in the first wave of Commonwealth immigration are being threatened with deportation. They have lived and worked in the UK for decades and consider themselves to be British, but are being told they are here illegally.
The issue has arisen because under the 1971 Immigration Act, all Commonwealth citizens living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain, but the act abolished the freedom of movement between British Commonwealth nations which existed before.
Until the 1971 Act, the Commonwealth citizens who came to Britain had citizenship rights, and therefore did not need the paperwork that was required of immigrants after the Act was passed. The Home Office seems never to have compiled paperwork on this group and is now, bafflingly, it is implementing its ‘hostile environment’ policies against them, and demanding proof of their right to be in the UK.
Many of the Commonwealth citizens who moved here never formalised their immigration status because they thought of themselves as British. Then, in 1971 they were guaranteed their rights. The Windrush generation often came here as children and didn’t bring their own papers of keep evidence. Those born in Caribbean countries are thought to be more affected than others because they were more likely to arrive on their parents’ passports without their own ID documents.
We are talking here about people who were invited into our country to help rebuild it. They were given the opportunity to make a new life here. They are an integral part of the social fabric.
They have worked hard, paid their taxes and raised families. They are British, pure and simple. They don’t deserve to be threatened and harassed.
Under the hostile environment policy, migrants are required to provide documentary evidence of every year they were in Britain. If you are a Commonwealth citizen who came here in the 1950’s, imagine how difficult that is. If you are poor, or poor at record keeping and paperwork, it may be impossible.
Elwaldo Romeo who moved to Britain from Antigua 59 years ago has now been told he is in the UK illegally. His Home Office letter said he was ‘liable to be detained’ because he was a ‘person without leave’. He now must report fortnightly to Home Office premises, and has been advised that the staff can offer him ‘help and support on returning home voluntarily’.
Paulette Wilson is a former cook at the House of Commons who came to Britain from Jamaica in 1968. She received a letter from the Home Office telling her to register each month at the Solihull immigration centre. Paulette has been threatened with deportation and wrongly sent to immigration removal centres. Earlier this year, the former Labour minister Lord Falconer raised her case:
“While she was there on a visit, officials declared that she was an illegal immigrant, had her carted off to the appalling Yarl’s Wood immigration removal complex and told her that she would be deported – presumably back to Jamaica, which she had not visited since she left as a child almost 50 years before,”
Glenda Caesar has had a career in the NHS, had children here (her eldest is 40) and her mother and father are buried in UK soil. She has lived here almost all her life and considers herself British, but because she has no ID records of her arrival she faces an uncertain future.
It is utterly appalling and brings shame to our country.
This is unacceptable. If you agree, I urge you to write to your MP about this matter and sign the petition calling for amnesty for the Windrush generation of migrants who came here as children. If even a single one of the Windrush generation is deported having been granted rights, it will be a sickening historic injustice. That we are even having to discuss this is disgusting.