Windrush Day is a moment of pride and celebration. Today we recognise and honour the generation that came from the Caribbean to the UK after the Second World War.
They played a pivotal role in rebuilding our country, and our city. They made Bristol their home – starting families, building businesses, serving their communities. I think of my own parents who answered the call, my mother who arrived as a 21-year-old to become a nurse in the NHS and my father who worked at Bristol Temple Meads and then went on to help build Broadmead. And it makes me think of the likes of Paul Stephenson, Roy Hackett and Guy Reid-Bailey, whose role in the Bristol Bus Boycott led to the passing of the Race Relations Act 1965 which made ’racial discrimination’ unlawful in public places. Bristol would not be the vibrant, inclusive and dynamic city it is today were it not for people like this. So today we say thank you to them for all they have given us as a city.
But of course Windrush Day is also a day for anger at injustice. For, despite their immense contribution, the Windrush Generation and their descendants have faced discrimination and mistreatment on a terrible scale, such that now the word Windrush is as likely to be associated with the word ‘Scandal’ as anything else. The ‘Hostile Environment’ policy implemented by Theresa May treated people who were legally resident in this country as if they were criminals. It has led to people losing their jobs and their access to basic services, and in se cases even being deported or denied the ability to return to the UK. Of course all of this has led to untold emotional and mental anguish for too many innocent people, including my friend, Jaswha Moses, who died before he could use the British Passport granted to him after years of fighting for the right to be here.
The Government response to this scandal has been nothing short of shameful. Instead of admitting their mistake and doing everything they could to put it right, they have sought to cover it up and get on with business as usual. The Hostile Environment, whilst no longer the official language of government policy, is still absolutely alive and kicking. And the Windrush Compensation Scheme, set up to supposedly make recompense to those who have suffered, has thus far given out just £360,000 to 60 people.
The Windrush Lessons Learned Review, conducted by Wendy Williams, was conveniently published at the moment of maximum attention on the Covid-19 emergency at the end of March. It sets out in gory detail exactly what went wrong, as well as many sensible measures that the Government could take to put things right and make sure that such a scandal never happens again. We must all, therefore, play our part in holding the Government to account for their response to this review. And until that time when our national policy reflects the respect and dignity due to all those who come here from overseas to make Bristol their home, we must mark Windrush Day as a moment to redouble our efforts to fight for change.