Saturday 22 June saw the arrival of the UK’s first official Windrush Day, a day commemorating the arrival of British citizens from the Caribbean on the Empire Windrush in 1948, and celebrating the immense contribution the Windrush generation has made to British society and economy for the last 70+ years. Windrush Day also brought with it the announcement of a memorial dedicated to the Windrush generation in Waterloo station, where many members of the Windrush generation first arrived in London. The announcement was met with a mixed reception, with members of the community questioning the choice of location, criticizing the lack of consultation and, quite rightly, wondering where was all this energy for actually righting the wrong so callously created by the government and enacted on the Windrush generation.
That last point, for me, is key. Where was all this energy and dedication when it came to fixing the problems the Windrush generation have been facing and continue to face because of Theresa May and her inherently racist government? Where was this commitment to spend money to provide those who have suffered as a result of the Windrush scandal with interim relief and legal aid? I’ll tell you – nowhere. It didn’t exist. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily mind the idea of a memorial in itself. But I do mind that it’s been announced while the devastating effects of the Windrush scandal are still being felt far and wide and the government has done next to nothing to address them. To demonstrate the sheer negligence and lack of care that the Home Office has continued to show the Windrush generation, on Windrush Day the Home Office told BBC London News in response to our protest that blocked Westminster Bridge that they were “resolute to right the wrong” experienced by the Windrush generation and that they “plan to set up a compensation scheme.” The Home Office has already set up a compensation scheme, with a 45-page guidance document, that last week they’ve finally said they can start making payments under. That’s part of what we were demonstrating about. The fact that the Home Office itself didn’t even seem to know what it was doing shows that it hadn’t really been doing a thing. And no, I don’t want to hear that it could have just been incompetence that led to that statement. The Windrush scandal is one of the single biggest issues the Home Office has had to deal with in recent years, so who did they send to speak to the country’s biggest broadcaster about it? A Year 10 student on work experience? Please. The truth is, the government is more concerned with optics than tangible solutions and that is a serious problem. gal-dem published an article on Windrush Day stating the absolute facts of the matter: that the government is treating the Windrush scandal like a PR stunt, and it’s disgusting.
This is why we need to stay mobilised. As I wrote in my last post, the Windrush scandal is still a scandal, and that is proven by the fact that people are still facing financial difficulties and dying without their situations being rectified, like Richard Stewart, a former Middlesex cricketer who died a week before Windrush Day without so much as an apology from the government, never mind compensation. The Day of Action that took place in seven cities in the UK was a success – the London protest was covered by the media and that helped to bring the issues back into the public consciousness. But we can’t stop there. We need to get the compensation scheme widened. We need the two-year time limit the Home Office has put on it to be extended, as it will take much longer than that to solve this and we know the Home Office is slow, incompetent and inefficient. We need legal aid provision to help the Windrush generation navigate that 45-page guidance document as well as the wider process so they get what is rightfully theirs. We need a public inquiry. There are a number of organisations, such as BAME Lawyers for Justice, BARAC UK, and Movement for Justice (to name a few), who are working at grassroots level to make this happen, but all these endeavours need public support and pressure, and both members of the community and “allies” need to play their part in providing this.
I will continue to write about the Windrush scandal for as long as the problems I’ve outlined remain unresolved, and I will continue to help at grassroots level as much as I am physically able to. I met a great group of young people while campaigning and we’ve set up a group to contribute more and help push this forward, and we’ve got some work in progress. Stay engaged and watch this space.