The 'Windrush generation' refers to people who, between 1948 to 1971, were invited by successive governments to relocate to Britain from their homes in Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean to address labour shortages. Despite being British citizens, many didn't have formal papers to prove this.
New laws which came into force with the Immigration Act 2014, and what the Government called its 'hostile environment' approach, led to some facing immigration checks and difficulty demonstrating their lawful status. This led to many being denied access to benefits, healthcare, social housing and losing their jobs, with some even wrongly detained and deported.
About 8% of Hackney's population is of Afro-Caribbean ethnic background and it's believed the borough is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of the Windrush generation, and many more from Commonwealth countries across the globe.
The Home Office has now launched its compensation scheme for those who have 'suffered a loss' because they couldn't easily demonstrate their right to live in the UK.
The scheme is open to anyone from a Commonwealth country who arrived before 1 January 1973, and those with a 'right of abode' or 'settled status' who arrived in the UK before 31 December 1988, regardless of their original nationality.
As well as those directly affected, it also covers other family members such as children and carers.
Compensation could be paid for loss of employment, immigration fees incurred, loss of tenancy and being made homeless, impact on health and education, non-access to banking, wrong detention and removal and general impact on 'normal daily life'.
This page details:
- the Council's support for the Windrush generation, and other undocumented migrants
- actions it's taken to urge the Government to change its 'hostile environment' approach and offer meaningful support and compensation to the thousands of innocent people who have been unjustly affected
- sources of advice and support for migrants
- information on events for members of the Windrush generation
The Council's motion
In August 2018, Hackney was the first council in the UK to pass a comprehensive motion regarding the Windrush generation [pdf], pledging to oppose the criminalisation of Windrush families, calling for an end to the 'hostile environment' policies and for support for those who have been affected by them, agreeing to celebrate annual Windrush Day, and press central Government for a public inquiry into the scandal.
The commitments in full, proposed by Cllr Carole Williams and adopted at a full council meeting, are to:
- continue actively campaigning for an end to all 'hostile environment' policy measures and to continue to call on the Government to enable the Windrush generation to acquire British citizenship at no cost and with proactive assistance throughout the process
- lead the way, by celebrating an annual Windrush Day in Hackney and for Hackney to welcome the government's announcement to make 22 June each year an annual celebration to recognise and honour the enormous contribution of those who arrived between 1948 and 1971
- press the Prime Minister to call for an independent public enquiry into the Windrush scandal
- demand the Government fully supports advice agencies in their work to achieve justice for all Hackney residents of the Windrush generation
- review the Council's own policies and procedures to ensure we support those affected
- support the call for fees for naturalisation to be waived for all those who have been affected
- oppose the criminalisation of Windrush families
The Council's calls on government
Mayor Philip Glanville wrote an open letter to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid [pdf, 134.9KB] in May, urging him to make good on promises that he would 'do the right thing', undo the 'appalling' hostile environment immigration policies, and update the Council on what actions the Home Office is taking to resolve the issues surrounding the status of the Windrush generation
In October, the Council submitted a consultation response to the Government's proposed compensation scheme for victims of the Windrush scandal. It argued that the current proposals were 'an inadequate response to the scale of suffering that the misapplication of 'hostile environment' policies has created'. The Council suggested various measures to include the scheme, including:
- there should be no maximum compensation amount, no confidentiality agreements and no time limits or other restrictions
- it should be easy to engage with and understand, and discourage the need to use claims management firms
- it should also compensate for emotional distress, and not just direct financial losses which can be easily demonstrated
- there should be no one size fits all approach to how compensation claims are judged. The Home Office should engage on a personal level with each claimant to try and understand the human impact of their policies
- past offending behaviour should not be a reason for being excluded from the scheme or being naturalised
- compensation should be tax free and reflect the individual circumstances of each claimant, many of whom may be living abroad
- as well as free legal advice, there should be one-to-one support that provide help from initial request for support through to resolution
In December 2018, Mayor Glanville wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May [pdf, 69.28KB] calling on her to "commit to an independent inquiry into the ongoing Windrush generation scandal, and to scrap the Government's regressive 'hostile environment' approach to immigration which has caused so much harm to so many innocent people."
Access to support and information
The Government has advice and guidance for Commonwealth citizens and others who have been in the UK for a long time and are worried about their immigration status.
Hackney's Citizens Advice Bureau, at 300 Mare Street, can offer a range of advice and holds free drop-in sessions from 10am - 1pm, Monday to Thursday. Telephone: 020 8525 6350.
Rights of Women provides immigration advice for women only. It's open between Monday 10am - 4pm, Thursday 10am - 1pm, 2pm - 5pm. Call 020 7490 7689.
Events for the Windrush Generation
Part of the Council's motion included celebrating an annual Windrush Day. The first one of these took place in June, to mark the 70th anniversary of Empire Windrush docking in Britain. A reception for Caribbean elders was held in the Town Hall, and Hackney Museum, which this year has taught over 3,000 school children about the borough's migration stories, took some of its collection to City Hall for the Mayor of London's 'Arrival' event.
The Council's community library service also celebrated by unveiling a framed poem at the Bells Project, a housing scheme targeted at Caribbean Elders. The poem had been created in one of the library's outreach poetry workshops for the residents.
In October, more than 300 elders joined the Hackney Caribbean Tea Party, at the Town Hall, to celebrate the Windrush generation. They were welcomed by a steel pan rendition of 'London is the Place for Me', and the Assembly Rooms were decorated with flags from Caribbean islands. Art exhibits, including a replica of the Empire Windrush ship and original suitcases used when travelling to the UK filled with passports and photos, were also on display.
Future event proposals include intergenerational activities such as the Windrush baking project where old traditions are passed on to the younger generations. The Council also plans to hold an outdoor summertime event to celebrate National Windrush Day on 11 June 2019.