The bond between the Windrush generation and all of us is unbreakable. In June 1948, the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury with over a thousand people on board, mainly from the Caribbean. Responding to a Commonwealth recruitment call from the ‘mother country’, the Windrush generation were invited here to help re-build Britain after the Second World War They contributed immeasurably to the rebuilding of our country after the destruction of war, filled labour shortages in our public services and helped to build the newly formed National Health Service – our country’s proudest achievement.
We must keep this context in mind when we consider the scandal surrounding the mistreatment of the Windrush generation and their descendants at the hands of this Tory government under the hostile environment – a scandal that has ruined many lives and damaged our international reputation with the Commonwealth and our allies.
It is particularly important to remember just what the Windrush scandal has involved under this government’s hostile environment policies, imposed by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary. This scandal has seen our own citizens deported, detained as prisoners in their own country, denied vital healthcare, and many have lost their jobs and been made homeless. Over a year since this issue was first raised in Parliament, we still do not know the full scale of this scandal.
All of this occurred even though the Windrush generation have always been fully, legally entitled to be here. Indeed, when they were invited to this country they were invited as citizens and equals.
There can be no justification for further sordid mistreatment of the Windrush generation.
Yet the compensation scheme announced by the government falls woefully short of what can be considered as fair and just. It does not go nearly far enough to remedy the injustice and hardship members of the Windrush generation and their descendants have experienced at the hands of this government.
This scandal is far from over, and with the Tories refusing to learn the lessons of Windrush and continuing the ‘hostile environment’ unabated, it is inevitable that we will see further such scandals in the future. Another important factor that needs to be recognised when we consider the Windrush scandal is that government policy, ministerial rhetoric and media coverage consistently fails to treat migrants as people, and this toxic combination contributed directly to this scandal.
Addressing this issue, Labour has not only exposed these cruel policies of the Windrush scandal but has also outlined the steps that a Labour government will take to end the Tories’ toxic and inhumane immigration system.
Under Labour, the hostile environment will end. And when it ends, the Tories’ bogus immigration target will go with it. You can either have a fair, rational target for immigration or you can have a bogus target – you cannot have both. Labour will end indefinite detention and close down Yarl’s Wood and Brook House detention centres.
If we are to really learn the lessons of Windrush, and to make sure the scandal isn’t repeated, this means honestly assessing how dog-whistle rhetoric and a race to the bottom in how we discuss the issue of on protecting our borders and immigration led directly to it.
In light of the Windrush scandal, it is more important now than ever that we reflect on our shared history and understand the role and legacy of the British Empire, colonisation and slavery. Black history is British history, and to make sure these injustices can never be repeated Labour will improve the teaching of Black British history and the history of the British Empire, colonialism and slavery.
Labour is clear. We will not rest until there is justice for the Windrush generation and in government Labour will end the ‘hostile environment’ for good.