Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott MP, calls for the Windrush generation to be treated with dignity and humanity.
The recent Windrush Generation scandal has seen people who had travelled to this country legally and who were completely certain that they were British treated with unbelievable levels of harshness and cruelty.
Some of these were refused medical treatment even when they were suffering from cancer; were refused benefits that they were entitled to including housing benefit (so some were made homeless); lost their jobs when a new owner of their company insisted on documentation they had never had; some were locked up in immigration detention centres; still more were refused entry back into this country, when they had only gone to the Caribbean for a holiday. And unknown numbers were actually deported. The Government now claims this is 63.
They did not need papers to claim their rights to NHS treatment or benefits until there was the ‘hostile environment.’ It was Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ policy which made them unemployed or homeless or deprived them of their pension.
It was this policy that detained some, deported others and disgracefully refused re-entry to people who had the right to be here.
Ministers have said it is regrettable that people weren’t give documentation. But in 1948, who had documentation? Most people had little beyond their birth certificate.
The new situation was not created by lack of documentation. It was created by the new insistence on documentation for some people, under the ‘hostile environment’.
The Windrush generation are the first victims of this Government’s hostile environment policy, but there will be more if there is not a real change of direction.
The hostile environment policy has infected almost every area of life, from schools and universities, to employers, state agencies and landlords. They have all been turned into internal border guards. It has been politically-motivated and driven. It is certainly not a product of analysis of our economic or social needs.
Additionally, it’s important to understand that this crisis has not been confined to people from the Caribbean. We have already seen a number of people from South Asia, here legally and working here, who have been caught out in a similar way. These numbers will grow, and their countries of origin will include most counties in the Commonwealth.
There are also all their children who came here. They should also be included in what we call the ‘Windrush generation’. It’s grotesque to invite people to come and work here and then say, decades later, “sorry we didn’t mention it at the time, but we didn’t mean your children could stay”.
In some cases too, grandchildren are caught up in this scandal, as parents and grandparents don’t have the necessary documentation.
All of this must end.
The reality is that the Government’s response has been simply unacceptable. At each stage of the process it has dragged its feet on coming forward with the full story about what has happened.
The Government and Prime Minister must come clean about how this policy came about. It is not as if they weren’t warned. I and others told them in 2014 that this scandal would be the predictable consequence of their policies. They cannot claim ignorance. They were warned. But they pressed ahead anyway.
The Tory cover up over the Windrush scandal must end and the hostile environment policy must go. It is time to treat people with dignity and humanity.