Comment Writer Kieren Williams argues that Kanye West's recent Twitter outburst has negative repercussions for the black communityWritten by KierenJWilliams on 13th May 2018
Theresa May Must Answer to the Windrush Generation
Immediate action needs to be taken to punish those responsible for creating a 'hostile environment' for the Windrush Generation, argues Comment Writer Kieren Williams
My grandfather came to Britain in 1955, my father a year later, along with his mother and sister – my grandmother and auntie. They answered the call of a nation in need of help from its former colonies – countries it hadn’t exactly treated well. Nevertheless, they and so many others answered the call of Britain, of Queen and country. So many followed in their path, moving to a completely foreign country, one where bigotry and racism towards people like us wasn’t uncommon. They uprooted their lives in the attempt to make a better life for themselves and their families. My father doesn’t often speak of his first years in Britain. I know he was very nervous coming into this entirely new country, but there was an excitement too. When we spoke about it he recalled his amazement at seeing the White Cliffs of Dover as his ship came in. I can only imagine the others in the Windrush generation felt the same, which makes this knife in their backs sixty-seven years later all the worse. It also makes me all the angrier, and all the more worried.
It began in 2010 with Theresa May, the then Home Secretary. She introduced strict new rules about immigrants proving their right to be in the UK and created a ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants in the UK. This is something she had stated she wanted to do for illegal immigrants, but succeeded in doing for those who had legally lived here for decades. This set the precedent that would lead to former Home Secretary Amber Rudd (who resigned during the time of me writing this article) denying British citizens healthcare, pensions and benefits. They made British citizens destitute and homeless, threatening them with deportation as well as refusing to let some back into the country. This was down largely to targets of deportations set by the Home Office who wanted a 10% rise in deportation. I have so many issues with this, it’s such a destructive policy. I can understand wanting to remove illegal immigrants from your country, but setting targets in such a delicate area never works. Just look at what happened when policemen were set targets in inner-city areas in America. Those who are innocent are prosecuted, attacked and worse as the government seeks to meet numbers on a board instead of taking each case individually within its own context as they should.
“They made British citizens destitute and homeless, threatening them with deportation as well as refusing to let some back into the country
It was revealed in a memo leaked to the Guardian that Amber Rudd had lied about her involvement with the scandal. She had first claimed no targets existed, then she claimed she hadn’t ever known of said targets, then resigned after each claim was proven to be a brazen lie.
Which is good. I think after her role in all of this she was right to resign and should face some form of punishment. Her actions have ruined lives and ripped worlds apart and she repeatedly lied about having no role in it. I also think an investigation is needed into the Home Office to understand how this could happen. How the government can target people who have lived here for over half a century after being invited here, how they can treat us in such a horrific manner, and how an environment can be created where that is accepted and sought after.
What started in 2010 stretched through to today. The environment Theresa May created terrorised some of the Windrush generation and beyond. Michael Braithwaite was sacked as a special needs assistant teacher after 56 years here because of the Home Office’s laws. He paid taxes and clearly contributed to our society but suffered from the Home Office’s purge. How easily could that have been one of my aunties or uncles? Or my own father? In the world of Brexit Britain, the lives of migrants are more precarious than ever and this just proves that danger stretches a lot further than any of us dared imagine.
“How they can treat us in such a horrific manner, and how an environment can be created where that is accepted and sought after
And what about Theresa May? The current Prime Minister was the Home Secretary, and architect of the original rules and impetus that caused this. She started all of this but has walked away almost unscathed, having only to issue a few apologies. Her role in this needs to be investigated. Amber Rudd has rightfully resigned for her role but what about our Prime Minister? She should not be allowed to get away with ruining so many lives. This has been a serious breach of trust, an attack on the very freedoms of so many and an attack on a very specific group of people who came to help this country and themselves.
One of the worst things about it for me is the hypocrisy of it all. We celebrated the Windrush Generation in the opening ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics, and now only a few years later the Windrush generation are facing uncertainty about their future, fearing for the lives they had created over decades in our country as rightful citizens. I am the son of a migrant and I wear that badge with honour. I always have and always will take pride from the fact that I am as Jamaican as I am English.
But right now I'm fearful, because that could have so easily been members of my family in that situation, spending a week in a detention centre and being a hair's breadth away from being sent back to Jamaica like Paulette Wilson was, or being refused re-entry to our country. Their lives ripped apart because of the Home Office, because of Amber Rudd and because of Theresa May. It angers me that this can happen. The handling of it reminds me of the way the Stephen Lawrence case was handled in some respects. Those in power only admitted their wrongs when forced - they did not do it freely and willingly. If Amber Rudd had had her way, she would have covered up her role and the entire affair and the suffering of so many would have continued.
It’s the latest in a long line of attacks and affronts to the black population of Britain. No, let me rephrase that, to the entire population of Britain. Because being black and being British are not mutually exclusive. The Windrush generation were as British as anyone. The spirit, ingenuity and determination they have showed make them more British than Kitchener and Churchill.
The Windrush scandal is a disaster that has ruined lives. Action needs to be taken, swift and definitive, to help those affected recover, assure something like this never happens again, and punish those responsible. And until then, I – the son of a migrant– will always be afraid for the safety and security of my family in my own country.