Dianne Abbott, David Lammy and Caribbean heritage parliamentarians launch bold approach to historic vision

By Thomas L Blair 25 May 2018©

Dianne Abbott MP
Dianne Abbott MP

Black Britons face a crisis of deportation without precedent for any minority in the British population. Observers point to immigration legislation Theresa May introduced in 2014 during her time as home secretary. Draconian rules require excessive documentation without justification and guidance.

Who is the Windrush generation?

The law threatens thousands of recruited labour from – largely from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago – between 1948 and 1971. Furthermore, their children face deportation although they have lived and worked here for decades.

The record shows that Many Commonwealth citizens arrived in the UK before British nationality and immigration law made any distinction between British subjects, whether born and living in the UK or elsewhere in the Empire.

The fightback movement starts

Yet, there is some good news: the Windrush Generation reopened demands for redress and reparations.

Black parliamentarians lead the way. Dianne Abbott, Labour Party Shadow Home Secretary, called for compensation for loss of jobs, homes and contact with friends and families.

Ms Abbott called for Sajid Javid, the replacement Home Secretary, to declare a new “Statutory Instrument to guarantee the rights and status of the Windrush generation – all those who arrived here from the Commonwealth before 1973”.

David Lammy and more than 200 MPs agree. They urged the Government to write safeguards for the Windrush generation into law “without delay”.

Hosting the British Caribbean Association he said: “I am a proud son of Windrush Generation immigrants and delighted to welcome over 60 members of the BCA to Parliament along with Dawn Butler MP, Clive Lewis MP and Baroness Rosalind Howells.

Race prejudice cited

Baroness Doreen Lawrence reportedly said “Victims of the Windrush scandal have faced a “double whammy” of racial prejudice since arriving in Britain.

The Labour peer said the same people who had suffered discrimination then over jobs and housing were now being threatened with deportation seven decades later.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Programme Director for Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty UK agrees. “Our immigration system needs more fundamental reform to address what are longstanding systemic faults”,

How much is the Windrush bill?

Diaspora champions say the Government must settle the recruited labour bill. Experts back up this claim. The reparations bill to pay includes denied services, wrongful detainment, and deportation.

Payment could be up to five figures for each month spent in wrongful detention. With compensation for anyone deported in error. Furthermore, the Windrush Generation is due the national savings from their recruited labour.

Sajid  Javid must make good his claim to “do right by the Windrush Generation”. Without this, “The system is inherently prejudicial. It creates a strong incentive to discriminate” said Satbir Singh, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Reparations—the historic vision

The Windrush Generation demands progress the aims of the African Reparations Movement (ARM) launched in 1993. Bernie Grant MP for Tottenham, a grand figure of the movement, demanded reparations “for the harm done to Africa and the African diaspora through enslavement, colonisation, and racism”. His inspiring speech at the funeral of deportee Joy Gardener has special resonance for youth today.

Now, Black parliamentarians and champions – many of West Indian heritage – have set the record straight. Ms Abbott’s tribute concludes:

“That ship [the Windrush] gave its name to a whole generation, who came to this country from 1948 to 1973, and this debate is about them—patriotic, courageous men and women who helped to rebuild this country after the war”.

Reparation demands are personal and  national,  Commonwealth and diasporic 

Clearly, the Windrush debacle affects people personally. ‘I’ll never trust the English again’ said man ‘stranded in Montego Bay since his passport was revoked without explanation in 2015’. Yet, collectively they reopened the request for redress and compensation for exploited Windrush generation labour.

What’s more, the demands have international implications. They have exposed the cracks in the tolerant and inclusive British image.  Thereby, destroying the confidence of Afro-Asian Commonwealth leaders in the UK’s promised post-Brexit trade and regional development.

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