Impacts of the Windrush Generation

3390 words (14 pages) Essay in History

18/05/20 History Reference this

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Windrush Generation

The importance of the “Windrush Generation” seeks and explores policies on constructed notions of “race”, ethnicity and migration. The Windrush Generation was a vital turning point in British history as well as foreign relations, as it has symbolised and contributed to the transformation of Britain, British life and what it means to be British. The concept of citizenship derived from the early ancient Greek period, whereby the idea of trying to find the balance between upper and lower class became a challenge among inequalities of status. Additionally, balance among residents laid on the disparity of others living inside the limits of the network who were characterised as non-citizens, leading to integrated migrant communities. The government took up an action plan for integrated migrants to share rights ,responsibilities and opportunities, the migration process interacted with political developments towards a more inclusive conception of citizenship. The Windrush generation and their children have led to the need to change the development of ideas and attempts to discourse various government services and benefits; in relation to citizenship to review policy towards members of the Commonwealth as well as factors of citizenship, which demanded a change in policy as a response to immigration. The Immigration Act 2014, Race Relation Act and the British Nationality Act 1948 were all put into place to control the influx of migration and to also encourage and welcome individuals of non-British backgrounds of origin to live and positively contribute to the British culture.

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The arrival of the so called Windrush generation has become one of the most significant aspects of history between the years 1948 and 1971. Thousands of people of Caribbean nationality were transported on a ship named MV Empire Wind rush, on 22 June 1948; the “first appearance of the ship docked in Essex Tilbury, carrying around 500 Jamaicans, many of which were young children.” (BBC News, 2019) As Britain faced labour shortages in the Second World War, opportunities arose for commonwealth citizens to migrate to the UK, in order to fulfil workplaces – at least half a million people moved from the Caribbean to Britain. The British Nationality Act 1948 gave Citizenship to the Caribbean to settle in as post-war labour workers which enabled them to migrate freely and provide employment. They were later referred to as the “ Windrush generation”. The migration of colonial citizens “started to arise from the moment the Empire Windrush docked until 1952, whereby around 1,000 to 2,000 people moved into Britain each year. This was pursued by a relentless and fast ascent to 42000 vagrants.” (The British Library, 2019) The numbers declined by just about a half in the two succeeding years, yet by 1960, it had expanded again to 58,000 which resulted in a prediction of limiting the access points for passage, under the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act. Due to triggered racial tension and increases of number of immigrants the New policy- making came into place in the 1960s such as the Race Relation Act, regulations included commonwealth immigrants were to be restricted. “By 1961, as per the national populace statistics, the quantity of individuals living in England and Wales (who were conceived in the Caribbean) were more than 161,000: 90,000 men and a little more than 71,000 ladies.” (The British Library, 2019) It is evident that there was a demand for job roles to be assigned and people were ready to grasp on the chance of a better monetary and prosperous life.

As the sugar trade collapsed, Many Windrush Generation individuals came to find education, opportunity, free health care and Money to send back home. Although this was of economic and political benefit, the large waves of immigrants was not manageable by the governments due to other pull factor whereby Whites ruled society, which caused discrimination and inequality; such as the Race riots in 1948 which led a lot of Caribbean migrants to experience racial tension, hence why policies and schemes such as the Immigration Act 2014, Race relation Act and the British Nationality Act 1948 were reviewed to enhance the control on the immigration system. Despite these political adjustments, Enoch Powell “River of Blood” speech stated “black people would take power in Britain within 20 years and painted a picture of riots and race war. His speech led to a wave of racist attacks.” (the Guardian, 2019) causing a contradiction and confusion amongst citizens.

By democracy each individual, belonging to a given nation-state, holds membership documents to certify their social rights. Citizens can hold multiple citizenships, there are many arguments and debates on whether someone has split loyalties to more than one state if they hold dual citizenship. Discrimination based on class, gender, ethnicity, race and, religion deteriorates one’s sense of citizenship, hence why the inclusion of excluded groups has been recognised as a significant transition for a more successful democratisation. Citizenship should not be derived from one cultural group, but from blood, birth and acquired status. Colonial powers such as Britain admitted workers from their possessions in Africa, Asia and Caribbean, and so colonised civilians were granted citizenship as a form of ideological integration. Although citizenship was granted at the end of the Colonial period and the transfer to “commonwealth status”, the ideological benefits of membership of a citizen group connecting migrants more closely to Britain was profound.

The British Nationality Act 1948 offered the right for citizens of the UK and Colonies to obtain the right of settlement. This led to a great wave of immigration and many of those arrived with their parents and without their own passports as under the age of 16 children were not subject to immigration control. Any commonwealth citizen who arrived before 1973 was granted the right to automatically permanently remain, so they did not have the necessity to apply for travel documents. The sudden rush of migration to the UK hurried the government’s strategy to put in place a system, which ensured immigrants, who were already residing in the UK, to be indefinitely entitled to stay. As the regulations tightened, commonwealth citizens who have been resident for 50 years were suddenly told that they did not have the right to live in the UK, and so were unable to access services resulting in deportation and lost jobs. Moreover, The Windrush scandal ‘s exposure of the Home Office’s failure, to adhere to their responsibility of keeping records, only presented the lack of concern there was in regards to the impact that immigration had within the country. “About 600,000 commonwealth citizens were granted full British citizenship in 1948 however, they were not given any documentation” (The National Archives, 2019) suggesting that the home office did not have any records, to confirm their immigration status and were threatened to get later deported as a result.

It was also recently admitted that Theresa May’s department, in her role as Home Secretary, destroyed many “landing cards”, which was decided by the UK border Agency under the obligation of the Data Protection Act 1998. It was not necessary to destroy landing cards as migrants found they could not get back into the UK or see there family. This was extremely problematic as the cards would have served as official evidence of the arrival of these citizens. The Parliament Advisory Group (PAC) has criticised the offices for “Efficient failure to keep precise outcomes”. (Anon, 2019). As indicated by the report of parliament, Home Office reinstated their policies with appropriate changes to ensure that rights were correctly lawful and to avoid neglecting the monitor of the effect of the complaint environment measures. As a result, an inter-ministerial group was established, in 2012, to examine the administrative arrangements in place. The Immigration Law Practitioners Association 1984 stated that public administration in the UK depended on a culture of rights as opposed to consents. It implied that individuals from the Windrush age, who had statutory leave to stay under the 1971 Immigration Act, did not have formal consent or documentation to stay in the UK from the Home Office, yet simultaneously reserved the privilege to do as such.

 On the other hand, the Immigration Act 2014 and the “compliant environment” (hostile environment policy 2010) policy complicated the legality of each case in relation to illegal migrants, which also had an effect on the Windrush generation. The Hostile environment were “designed to minimise the impact of all types of migration on public services” whilst maintaining the aim of reducing general net migration to the UK and firming migrant’s identification in health care establishments. However, this hostile environment of requiring proof of immigration status to access hospital treatments, and benefits of the like, negatively interfered with people’s lives; many Windrush generation residents were targeted and treated as illegal immigrants. The Home Affairs Select Committee released a report stating the lack of clarity that is found within the hostile environment policies as there was a shortage of accurate data in relation to the scale of immigration which had an important impact on public interest. Nearly 850 people between “ 2012 and 2017 were wrongly detained, compensation payment ranged from £1000 to £120,000” (Anon 2019) and members of the immigration enforcement were offered personal objectives and target which would be rewarded if achieved

Paulette, a windrush generation immigrant, moved to the UK between 1948 and 1971 and was forced to be sent to a detention centre which she described her experience as terrible and frightening. (BBC News, 2019)

The House of Commons Hansard report (Volume 658) was sat on 8th April 2019 and refers to the launch of the Windrush Compensation Scheme. This was used as a data control mechanism potentially monitoring circumstances on migrants, commonwealth citizens and different nationalities, who have been legally resident in the UK for quite a while, yet who have no documents to demonstrate their status. Through this plan, around 3,400 individuals acquired British citizenship. The compensation scheme 2001 is available for children and grandchildren of Commonwealth citizens in circumstances (the estates of those who are now deceased) to be eligible to claim compensation and family members of eligible claimant whereby it is directly financial. Regardless of the nationality upon arrival, the member is still eligible to apply as long as they have lived in the UK before 31 December 1988. Once the claim has been made, they will be contacted to confirm and receive a compensation deal.

Margaret Hillier, the Hackney South and Shoreditch MP 2007-2010 suggested that the “Home Office failed to understand the real-life impact of policies that it was implementing […] a group of people with citizenship and residency rights […] were badly affected—people who were legally in the country with citizenship prior to 1973 when citizenship was granted automatically[…]including those from the Caribbean Commonwealth.” (Hansard.parliament.uk, 2019)

The impacts of the Windrush scandal occurred because of discrimination. The term discrimination is defined to be an experience of vicious racial injustice on the citizen’s entry to Britain. Caribbean’s asserted the fundamental principle that has kept people of African descent in the Americas and Europe alive – the equality of all human beings. Discrimination in the crucial fields of employment, housing, justice and education served to focus attention on these matters as “the gross mishandling and abuse of the Windrush generation by the Home Office raises serious questions over whether British citizens were discriminated against on the basis of their race and ethnicity, in breach of equalities legislation.” (BBC News, 2019) The Race Relations Act 1976 was set to promote race equality and prevent anyone to act out any bigotry because of one’s colour, race, ethnic or national origin. Because of these injustices, the government has breached race discrimination legislations, resulting in immigration policies with an outcome of racial discrimination towards Caribbean individuals and BME individuals to occur.

As commonwealth immigration increased, following the arrival of the windrush, so did racial tension. The riots started in Liverpool 1948 by right- wing pro-white groups, for competition, housing and jobs. The Race Relations Act 1965 came into force as racial discrimination was increasing in public places which threatened the public security. The act forbids discrimination on “grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins.” (UK Parliament, 2019) Immigration restrictions were being newly examined leading to British passport holders born overseas with the only option of settling in Britain, if they gave a work permit and had a parent or grandparent in the UK. Furthermore, the commission for racial equality in 1976 was established to tackle racial discrimination. The anti-discrimination laws of 2015 were seen as effective as they promoted equal opportunities and good relation between racial groups, highlighting the sense of community fellowship. As the variety of nationality passport holders who were entering the UK increased, the progress for accordance and respect improved as a result of these anti-discrimination laws.

The nature of The British Nationality Act of 1948 was helpful for citizens of British Colony as it gave equal fair treatment to all its subjects. As Smith and Marmot (2014) highlight: “the state did not bother the inflow of immigrants until they felt the pressure from the public, who suddenly developed negative feelings of incoming labour from the Commonwealth countries”. Some scholars hold the view that the government was not willing to restrict the arrival of Commonwealth immigrant, yet a closer study of the political responses and public opinions to the Commonwealth immigration suggests otherwise (Smith and Marmot, 2014). These scholars further state that the arrival of Empire Windrush on June 1948 provoked the political feeling of some right-wing politicians who tirelessly fought for strict immigration control.

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The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 was directed through the US and restricted farm workers to enter, this caused losses of jobless youth in the Caribbean islands. However, as the Caribbean islands had a high unemployment rate in the 1950s, this made the youth spread out and search elsewhere. Leading them to look further from their home country. Britain was at an advantage due to the labour shortages that were made due to Second World War.

Advert stories were reported by a Jamaican newspaper called the Daily Gleaner. Jamaican newspaper The Daily Gleaner, troop ship would call to Jamaica in about two weeks and the passage was £28,10 shillings (Telegraph.co.uk, 2019)

Migrants would get involved in public services labour such as foundries, railways, farm workers, post office, plumbing, electricians and cleaners. The National Health Service also welcomed west Indian nurses and London Transport recruited bus driver. Children were also educated to believe that they were too English, which amounted the shock and disheartenment from the negative treatment they received in the UK. Many West Indians were able to co-operate together to form a system, which was familiar in their place of origin, as a method of saving financial situations in order to buy homes and secure a loan or mortgage. They have established their own organisation such as the West Indian Standing Conference which encourage a greater interest in community participation.

Similarly to the victims of the Holocaust, slavery, and migration, a ‘silence’ is referred to when addressing the theory that hinges on ‘crisis in witnessing’. Those who have experienced the traumatic events of post-war migration to Britain is examined in trauma literature which harnesses the concept of ‘belatedness’. This indicates the numerous effects on members of the next generation who articulate the traumas of those who experience before. The older generation’s voice may have been silenced due to the social upheaval of discrimination as well as the lack of platform and political freedom of speech. For the Windrush generation, this ‘trauma’ was the pervasive racist rejection which demotivated so many who journeyed to Britain, having anticipated finding the open arms of a welcoming Mother Country. This disappointment and misconception of Britain were installed through the complex colonial socialisation which accompanied along with British economic exploitation in the Caribbean. Andrea Levy’s hit theatrical play staging at the National Theatre this year will address this topical issue as it centers around three people whose families came to Britain from the Caribbean recalling their struggles: “They could see the opportunities and that kept them going and able to put up with nonsense.”(Saner, 2019)

After Britain’s triumph of Second World War, Caribbean Soldiers were exceptionally baffled to return home after serving in the Second World War as they found that despite their sacrifices and service economically, the Caribbean was in a terrible condition thus leading to migration. As indicated by Byron, the joblessness, especially among youth, was uncommonly high in Jamaica and they couldn’t move to their neighbouring states.

(Telegraph.co.uk, 2019)

This picture shows a man searching for a job and housing on the streets of Birmingham.

BBC (2008) reported that the USA, for instance, which was a ‘preferred destination’ for West Indians, because of the employment opportunities which was available through The Farm Work Programme, shut their doors up for the West Indians. Migrant Sam King MBE, explained his journey to the UK migrating to Essex on board the ship, a short clip describing how many individuals had no intention of coming back to a colony, and looking forward towards a new home. Although there were plenty of jobs available, immigrants often struggled to find somewhere to live. Housing was in short supply after the war, and discrimination was rife among landlords.

The wider social science challenges include the relations between the macro and the micro levels; between large and small scale; between the general and the particular; and between the individual and the mass. The transition among class, gender and ethnicity should constantly be examined in order to ensure a smooth and responsible process. From a small town in Jamaica to a large city in the UK, a small low-paid job to a higher income, an individual of a minority group to joining a mass demographic of a white British community, the transition should be accessible to anyone, within secure measures, in order for a society to be considered affluent.

However, due to the disorganisation and lack of understanding from the parliament’s account, their lack of immediate action resulted in the miscommunication to members of the Windrush generation, as they were officially denied their rights. The government’s false representation of the outmost duty of care and support did not live up to their promise to fulfil the future success, which was reassured to be accompanying along with a British national and citizenship. The immigration policies which are implemented forwardly prioritise citizen’s rights to work, live and participate in the services offered within the UK. The Windrush Generation scheme promoted acts to reduce the minority of individuals affected by the lack of rights as well as the history of Britain and how the generation of 1948 was impacted later in modernity.

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