Windrush Scandal

Imagine being invited to work to help build the country after the war effort.

Not only are you adjusting to a new country, you also adjust to a new culture and weather.

After 50 plus years, you have created a home, built a life, a family, a career, and the realisation that this country is more your home than the country you were born in.

On the 28th November 2017, you receive a letter that you are an illegal immigrant and that you are being told that you are going to be sent to Jamaica.

A lot of these citizens didn’t apply for British passports and had no idea that essentially their immigration status had never been properly clarified. 

This resulted in some of them being deported back to the Caribbean.

They were “denied access to healthcare, housing and access to employment,” as Holly Lynch, Member of Parliament (MP) of the Labour party, pointed out whilst opposing the flight.

This was the case for Paulette Wilson, who was arrested and detained twice. 

If it wasn’t for the last-minute intervention from her MP and a local charity she would have been Jamaica bound.

It was common for children under ten to travel on their parent’s passports, which was what Pauline did when she arrived in 1968.

Paulette’s interview with The Guardian inspired many to speak up about how unfairly they were treated. 

Paulette and 164 others were wrongfully detained and some removed from the UK, it forced the government to apologise and the resignation of the then home secretary Amber Rudd.

It was a shock to many when it was announced that Paulette had died unexpectantly in July earlier this year.

One of her closest friends Patrick Vernon said

“It’s a complete shock. She died a broken woman, that’s all I can say.

“The impact of the hostile environment on her mental health … people underestimate the impact of the hostile environment, which is based on fear and intimidation.”

The Windrush Compensation was set up in April 2019.

In August 2020, one Black member of the Home Office resigned “describing the Windrush compensation scheme as systemically racist and unfit for purpose”

Alexandra Ankrah, a former barrister who worked as head of policy in the Windrush compensation scheme, said she resigned because she lost confidence in a programme that she alleged was “not supportive of people who have been victims” and which “doesn’t acknowledge their trauma”.

The Home Office rejected that the scheme was discriminatory.

In November 2020, another announcement was that 50 people were going to be deported to Jamaica.

It was scheduled for December 2nd, the date the UK’s national lockdown was lifted.

An open letter signed from 82 leading Black figures including David Olusuga, Naomie Harris, Thandie Newton, Naomi Campbell, and Bernadine Evaristo led calls to stop the deportation.

Sadly 13 people boarded the Jamaican bound flight, 37 less than Priti Patel planned.

One of whom tested positive for coronavirus, on the day he arrived in Jamaica.

The Home Office is yet to confirm whether he was tested before the flight.

It’s hard to imagine to be invited here, spend an entire life then one day you receive a letter that you are not a ‘proper’ citizen and everything you know is stripped away from you.

There are tireless activists who work diligently behind the scenes doing everything that they can to help the detainees.

I hope justice is brought swiftly to those and we can put an end to this ‘hostile environment’.

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