Posted on April 15th 2018
JCWI was once again in the news all week, as we led the fight to stop the illegal deportation of members from the so-called Windrush generation. Our action along with The Guardian Newspaper and C4 News in highlighting the issue in the media, together with The Runnymede Trust, iMix and members of the Caribbean diplomatic community, those affected, celebrities and members of the Caribbean diaspora here in the UK came together last week to say enough is enough and demand the UK Government act quickly to resolve the problem.
Thousands of people who arrived in the UK as children in the first wave of Commonwealth immigration face are being threatened with deportation.These are people who have lived and worked in the UK for decades but many are now being told they are here illegally. A new petition on the government's website calling on the Home Office to grant them an amnesty has attracted more than 100,000 signatures. You can sign it here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/216539
Rights Stripped Away
The problem arose from the fact that under the 1971 Immigration Act, all Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain - but the right to free movement between Commonwealth nations was ended from that date onwards. However, the Home Office did not keep a record of those granted leave to remain or issue any paperwork confirming it, meaning it is difficult for the individuals to now prove they are in the UK legally.
The Migration Observatory at Oxford University estimates there are 500,000 people resident in the UK who were born in a Commonwealth country and arrived before 1971.
"This is a slap in the face for the Windrush generation," said Patrick Vernon, who started the petition, a reference to the Empire Windrush, which brought workers from the West Indies to Britain in 1948.
People who had "worked hard, paid their taxes, raised children and see Britain as their home" were being "threatened and harassed" by the Home Office in what he described as "an historic injustice".
It was particularly ironic, he added, because 2018 was the 70th anniversary of the Empire Windrush's arrival at Tilbury docks, in Essex.Labour MP David Lammy, who is backing the campaign, tweeted: "We invited people as citizens, Home Office treating them like criminals."
Gary Younge meanwhile reported on how this was all part of a toxic system and being caused by Theresa May’s creation of the Hostile Environment on immigration in 2012 which has made it increasingly difficult for immigrants to access health care, housing, education and access and you can read his fascinating Op Ed here.
Meanwhile, our Chief Executive pointed out that on a daily basis here at JCWI we were coming across cases of Australian, Nigerian, Canadian and South African, Indian and Pakistan-born citizens facing the same problem.
But it was "not as likely you will be asked to demonstrate your immigration status" by landlords or officials if you were "white and of European origin", JCWI chief executive, Satbir Singh, told BBC News.
JCWI is calling for Commonwealth citizens who arrived before 1971 to be given the same status as EU citizens living in the UK, who will face a much lower burden of proof of residence than the Commonwealth citizens after Brexit.
The final details have yet to be confirmed but EU citizens may be able to produce things like school registration paperwork or library cards to prove residence, something that would not be accepted from Commonwealth citizens and the fight isn’t finished yet.
Over the next week or so we hope to report again. Meanwhile, please do read this outstanding summation by the issues by Amelia Gentleman who has reported on the story for The Guardian from the beginning: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/12/caribbean-nations-demand-solution-to-illegal-immigrants-anomaly