The ‘windrush’ generation has been the focus of much controversy in the news over the last week. But who exactly are the windrush generation? And why are they filling the headlines of political news this week?
1.Who are they?
The Windrush generation are technically the British African-Caribbeans who came to Britain on HMT Windrush, a passenger cruise liner that brought 492 people to London in 1948. It is commonly used to refer to any immigrants who arrived in Britain between the end of the Second World War and the 1970s.
2. Why are they in the news?
Thousands of people who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971 as children form the majority of the windrush generation and are now facing threats of deportation.
3. Why is this happening?
In 2012, the government passed a law stating that immigrants would have to prove they had a right to live and work in the UK – thousands of cases have since been heard in court, and the current focus on the windrush generation is as a result of what people perceive to be unfair treatment of them in these cases.
4. What are the government doing?
Theresa May has issued a personal apology in response to the revelation that a large number of the windrush generation are now having to prove their right to live in the UK, despite being here for over 50 years. Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced that a government task force is to be created, dedicated solely to trying to resolve such cases within two weeks.
5. What are the windrush generation doing?
A petition to the government asking for amnesty for anyone who arrived in Britain between 1948 and 1971 as a minor (under the age of 16) has been signed by over 160,000 people.
6. What does this mean for the UK?
This is not a great moment for the UK’s developing immigration policy, especially alongside all the immigration policy changes happening due to Brexit. With questions already rife over who is allowed in an out of Britain, and who is entitled to police this, an added stigma is not going to be helpful. This is also an unhelpful reminder of the British Empire (where the windrush generation came from) and has strong implications for the health of the Commonwealth relationship.
7. What do the opposition say about it?
Jeremy Corbyn has of course jumped at this opportunity to prove why Theresa May is not fit for leadership. In his publicly expressed opinion, this is a demonstration of the effects of a ‘hostile’ immigration policy, and insists that he warned this might be a consequence.
8. What next for the government?
The fact that the Prime Minister has had to make a public apology is not good. Theresa May and the conservatives are going to have to be the pillars of tact and empathy going forward, in order to ensure that people like the windrush generation who have lived in the country for over half a century are not discriminated against simply because they are not the epitome of ‘white Britain’, which is how it will very quickly begin to be perceived.
9. What next for the windrush generation?
With the Home Secretary’s promise that cases should be dealt with in two weeks, doubtless some will be hopeful. The fact remains, however, that many of the windrush generation do not possess any documents proclaiming their right to live and work in the UK. Because they arrived before 1971, when free movement between Commonwealth nations was stopped, they did not originally need it. It is no doubt going to be a worrying few months until the government presents a more permanent solution.
10. Food for thought….
The debate over the windrush generation and their right to be in the UK raises an interesting question: in our contemporary age of multiple mixed races, different religions, and a range of backgrounds – what is British? Is national identity at this point a moot point? Are we all, as Immanuel Kant would have us believe, in fact just citizens of the world, with no overriding national identity? Prime Minister May, who famously said that ‘a citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere’, would surely disagree. But perhaps what this highlighting of the variety of Britain suggests is precisely that…we are not UK Citizens, but World Citizens.