Today is Windrush Day, marking the day 72 years ago when the Empire Windrush ship arrived at Tilbury Docks and gave its name to a generation of migrants from the Caribbean. It’s a day of celebration – but also necessarily a day of confronting injustice. Here’s a reminder of why and how we can re-commit to demanding justice for the Windrush generation and demanding an end to the hostile environment for migrants, once and for all.
There is surely no clearer indication of why the Black Lives Matter movement is so needed in the UK than the government’s failure – more than 3 years after the Windrush scandal – to either make amends for its impacts, or scrap the ‘hostile environment’ that lies behind it.
Former solider Anthony Williams arrived in Birmingham in 1971, aged 7. Four decades later he was fired and left destitute for five years because the Home Office had wrongly declared him an illegal immigrant. As he tells the Guardian today: “If I was white, I wouldn’t be in this situation.”
In the immediate aftermath in 2017, the government promised to ‘right the wrongs’ of the scandal.Yet many are still waiting for justice. Only 60 people have received compensation, compared to 12,000 who have had to be issued new documents. The publication of the Lessons Learned Review commissioned into the scandal was repeatedly delayed, then rushed out in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in March. More than three months later, Home Secretary Priti Patel has yet to commit to its 30 recommendations.
The hostile environment
We started campaigning in solidarity with migrant rights groups against the hostile environment in 2016. Justice for migrants is a key part of campaigning for a more just world – whether forced migration caused by British foreign policy overseas, or mistreatment of migrants who come to the UK. When the Windrush scandal broke out, it seemed that this was surely the beginning of the end for this deliberately cruel policy. But it remains in place today.
Reviewing the impacts of the hostile environment policy is one of the recommendations of the Windrush Lessons Learned review. Last year the High Court found that the hostile environment causes racial discrimination – as campaigners have long warned. Extraordinarily, the government appealed that verdict, and while the Court of Appeal agreed that the policy causes racial discrimination, it ruled that it’s up to MPs to decide if it’s “greater than envisaged”. It’s now gone to the Supreme Court.
The hostile environment was a deliberate and calculated assault on migrants with little concern for the consequences. It continues to mean many migrants are afraid of getting healthcare, of sending their kids to school, of trying to rent a property, even writing to their MP, in case they find themselves detained and deported. The Windrush scandal has been a rare example of the daily outrage of our immigration system breaking through into the public consciousness, but it won’t be the last scandal unless our government starts treating migrants with humanity, not hostility.
Here are six ways you can stand in solidarity with the Windrush generation and challenge the hostile environment
1. Demand justice for the Windrush generation
- On Saturday, survivors of the scandal delivered a 130,000-strong petition to the prime minister demanding all the Windrush Lessons Learned are implemented. The petition is still open for signatures.
2. Challenge the government’s hostile environment to migrants
- The Windrush scandal exposed the reality of a hostile environment for migrants in the UK. Help end it by signing our petition to the home secretary.
3. Support other campaigns fighting the hostile environment
- The Patients Not Passports campaign against the hostile environment in the NHS
- JCWI’s legal challenge to the hostile environment in housing
- Liberty’s campaign to stop hostile environment data-sharing in public services like schools and hospitals
4. Attend virtual events
- Check out lots of virtual events taking place for Windrush Day
- Sitting in Limbo, the BBC dramatization of the story of Anthony Bryan and the Windrush scandal.
- David Olusoga’s documentary: The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files, is available until 13 July.
- A live recording of the National Theatre’s adaptation of Andrea Levy’s Small Island.