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May agrees to meet regional heads at CHOGM on Windrush

Published: 
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A growing outcry against threats of deportation from the UK facing many people of Commonwealth Caribbean background—thousands by some estimates—hit a crescendo here in the Parliament yesterday.

“It is inhumane and cruel for so many of that Windrush generation to have suffered so long in this condition,” Labour MP David Lammy, whose parents are from Guyana, told Parliamentary colleagues as he reflected on the extent of disquiet over the issue.

Over the past several weeks there have been an increasing number of mainstream and social media reports, plus numerous personal accounts, of the uncertainty being faced by those caught up in this dilemma.

Most of them were brought to the UK by their parents and came to be known as the Windrush generation. The MV Empire Windrush was the British passenger ship which brought waves of West Indians to the UK in the post-war period starting in 1948. But in 1971 the immigration laws under which they were invited to the UK changed, rendering many of them virtually stateless.

Life, however, continued for many in a form of normalcy and they were even recognised by the state and its various agencies. They also found work, in both the public and private sector, had bank accounts and even owned property.

But things were changing. There has been a gradual and continuous tweaking of the British immigration laws in the years since 1971, culminating in a series of draconian rules between 2014 and 2016. Those came at the height of the campaign leading up to the UK’s ‘Brexit’ referendum from the European Union (EU), in which immigration was a core issue.

But Commonwealth Caribbean nationals who have been ensnared in the changes have now become the most noticeable victims. In the past year or so, the tales of woe have been mounting in intensity as the reality of the changes began to bite. It means some Windrush generation British residents, who might never have applied for UK passports, have even reportedly been threatened with deportation, despite having been living in the UK for as long as 50 years because they cannot provide any documentation. An estimated 50,000 people from the Windrush generation are said to be affected.

The outcry has now caused a U-turn by British Prime Minister Theresa May, who has agreed to a meeting with a delegation of Caribbean leaders, coincidentally in London this week for the annual Commonwealth Heads of Government summit. A previous request a few days ago was rejected.

An all-party group of 140 parliamentarians wrote to her on the matter. It was May who, as Home Secretary, initiated the current draconian immigration requirements.

Amber Rudd, who succeeded May in the role, has blamed what is now her own ministry for “becoming too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes lose sight of the individual.”

She announced that she has put a task force in place to review the rules and the processes.

MIKE JARVIS
Reporting from UK
for Guardian Media

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