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The 75th Anniversary of Windrush

Yesterday marked 75 years since the Empire Windrush ship arrived in Essex. This is one of the earliest and largest examples of people emigrating to the UK from the British Empire’s colonies in the Caribbean during the post-war period.


The British Nationality Act 1948 meant the ‘Windrush generation’ had the right to enter and settle in the UK, as they had come from British colonies. In addition, migrant workers were needed due to losses in the war, and to fill vacancies in new industries such as British Rail and the NHS, so the British government encouraged African-Caribbean people to come to the UK. (Birmingham City Council)


However, the Windrush generation was still subjected to racism. For example, many were denied private employment and housing, as well as access to some establishments. (Goulbourne) There were even large-scale attacks because some native Britons were so displeased by the presence of African-Caribbeans, and were influenced by propaganda from far-right, authoritarian and ultranationalist organisations such as Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement. (Taylor, p.12) For instance, the Notting Hill race riots took place in 1958, in response to which a ‘Caribbean Carnival’ was held the following year, and this became the annual Notting Hill Carnival that still takes place over six decades later. (BBC London)


Most of the Windrush generation remained in the UK, so are seen as having begun the transformation of the UK into a multicultural society. (Phillips) This is despite the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, which restricted the emigration of natives from the British Empire’s colonies to the UK.


Sadly, 2018 saw the beginning of the ‘Windrush scandal’. This involved the mistreatment, namely detaining and deportation, of members of the Windrush generation. (The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants) It resulted in the resignation of the Home Secretary, and in an independent review by an Inspector of Constabulary which determined that ‘the Windrush generation has been poorly served by this country. (Gentleman & Bowcott) In addition, by November 2021, only an estimated 5% of victims has received the compensation announced in December 2018. (Gentleman)


RefuNet hopes that those who were not previously aware of the information in this article now understand the significant effects of the Windrush generation on British society, and the importance of learning from the mistakes of those who have mistreated African-Caribbean migrants.


References:

Birmingham City Council, ‘Birmingham's Post War Black Immigrants’, Birmingham.gov.uk, https://web.archive.org/web/20061006210211/http:/www.birmingham.gov.uk/GenerateContent?CONTENT_ITEM_ID=2392&CONTENT_ITEM_TYPE=0&MENU_ID=0 (2006)

Gentleman, ‘Windrush: Home Office has compensated just 5% of victims in four years’, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/nov/24/windrush-home-office-has-compensated-just-5-of-victims-in-four-years (2021)

Gentleman & Bowcott, ‘Windrush report: call for inquiry into extent of racism in Home Office’, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/19/windrush-report-condemns-home-office-ignorance-and-thoughtlessness (2020)

Goulbourne, ‘Windrush and the making of post-imperial Britain’, British Library, https://www.bl.uk/windrush/articles/windrush-and-the-making-of-post-imperial-britain (2018)

Parliament of the United Kingdom, ‘British Nationality Act 1948’, legislation.gov.uk, https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo6/11-12/56/enacted

Parliament of the United Kingdom, ‘Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962’, legislation.gov.uk, Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 (legislation.gov.uk), https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1962/21/enacted

Phillips, ‘Windrush - the Passengers’, BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/modern/windrush_01.shtml (1998)

Taylor, The National Front in English Politics (London, 1982)

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, ‘Windrush scandal explained’, The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, https://www.jcwi.org.uk/windrush-scandal-explained (2023)

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