Significance and Legislation of the Windrush Generation

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18th May 2020 History Reference this

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The principality of the “Windrush Generation” seeks and explores policies on constructed notions of “race”, ethnicity and migration.  The significance of the Windrush Generation is 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. It has led to the development of ideas and attempts to discuss various government services and benefits in relation to citizenship, especially to members of the Commonwealth as well as factors of citizenship, which was seen to change policy responses to immigration.  Immigration Act 2014, the Windrush Scheme, the Data Protection Act 1998, Anti-Discrimination Laws 1965, 1968 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 Wind rush 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. As Britain faced labour shortages in the Second World War, opportunities arose for commonwealth citizens to migrate to the UK in order to fulfil the labour shortages in workplaces – at least half a million people moved from the Caribbean to Britain. This was later named 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 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. 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. 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. Although this was of economic and political benefit, the large inundation of immigrants was not manageable by the governments, hence why policies and schemes such as the Immigration Act 2014, the Windrush Scheme, the Data Protection Act 1998, Anti-Discrimination Laws 1965, 1968 and the British Nationality Act 1948 were reviewed to enhance the control on the immigration system.

The membership of individuals in modern democratic societies is marked by the status of citizenship. Those who belong in a given nation-state have documents certifying their membership, and citizens possess a wide range of civil, political and social rights. The pivotal right is that of the participation in law-making and government. Ideally, citizens are meant to belong to one nation-state only. Discrimination based on class, gender, ethnicity, race and, religion deteriorates one’s sense of citizenship and so securing the participation of previously excluded groups has been seen as a key to democratisation. Citizenship should not be derived from one cultural group, but from a residence on a state territory. 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.

The British Nationality Act 1948 offered the right for citizens of the UK and Colonies to maintain the right of settlement. This led to a great wave of immigration and as many of those arrived with their parents and without their own passports. Any member 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, were indefinitely entitled to stay. Moreover, The Windrush scandal demonstrates a combination of a lack of concern about the real- world impact of the Home Office’s (the Department) immigration policies compounded by a systemic failure to keep accurate records. About 600,000 commonwealth citizens were granted full British citizenship in 1948 however, they were not given any documentation; 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. 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”. 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 stated that public administration in the UK depended on a culture of rights as opposed to consents, and the idea that individuals did not need to demonstrate their character at different focuses. 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. They 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. In January 2018, the Home Affairs Select Committee issued 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 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. It gives data to commonwealth citizens and different nationalities, who have been legally occupant in the UK for quite a while yet the who have no archives to demonstrate their status. Through this plan around 3,400 individuals acquired British citizenship. The scheme is available for children and grandchildren of Commonwealth citizens in circumstances, the estates of those who are now deceased but be eligible to claim compensation and family members of eligible claimants 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 contact to confirm the received and offer a compensation detail. Moreover, 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.”  (, 2019)

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 failed to understand race discrimination legislations, resulting in immigration policies with an outcome of racial discrimination towards Caribbean individuals and BME individuals.

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 1965 and 1968 were seen as effective as they promoted equal opportunities and good relation between racial groups, highlighting the sense of community fellowship. Along with restrictions elsewhere in Europe such as high unemployment at home, favourable exchange rates, and pent-up demand, a wave of immigration was unleashed. 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 restring 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.

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 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. 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.

Jamaican newspaper The Daily Gleaner, troop ship would call to Jamaica in about two weeks and the passage was £28,10 shillings

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, Soldiers were exceptionally baffled to return home as the financial circumstance in the British Caribbean domains compounded amid the war. As indicated by Byron, the joblessness, especially among youth, was uncommonly high in Jamaica and they couldn’t move to their neighbouring states. 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 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.

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

 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. They include relations between time and space, between dynamics or processes and outcomes, and between structure and agency. Mediating agents and transitions need also to be accounted for, as do intersections among class, gender, generation, ethnicity and other social cleavages. Hence, 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 – this seemed like an opportunity for affluence and security.

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However, due to the disorganisation and lack of understanding from the parliament’s account, a failure was compounded by the Department’s lack of action when there were clear warnings that members of the Windrush generation, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable, were being denied their rights. The department has a duty of care to identify and support everyone is affected by the Windrush scandal, but in practice , its actions do not live up to its own promise to fulfil the success which was reassured to be accompanying along with a British national and citizenship. The most significant priority is to protect the rights of people to live, work and access services and benefits in the UK when designing and implementing immigration policies. 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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