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Poetic justice for the Windrush generation

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

On matters of immigration this newspaper has never departed from the view that no individual should expect that they can merely walk into a country and establish homes, businesses and families without meeting the legal obligations relevant to their desires.

In Jamaica's case, for instance, last year the authorities here deported more than 50 people who either breached their immigration status or were found guilty of drug offences, according to the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency.

However, the current controversy that has engulfed the British Government over the so-called Windrush generation is a different cup of tea, and Prime Minister Theresa May has to sip from something that is of her own making.

In a nutshell, the Windrush generation are Caribbean nationals who were invited to England after World War II to help rebuild that country. After the first batch, who travelled on the ship Empire Windrush in 1948, many more followed. They were allowed indefinite leave to remain in Britain.

However, under new immigration laws they are required to prove continuous residence in the United Kingdom since 1973. That, though, has proven almost impossible for many, particularly those who have not kept records.

Readers will recall the Jamaica Observer story of Mr Lloyd Bogle who had migrated from Jamaica to England with his parents when he was seven years old and in January 2015 paid a visit here for the first time in 54 years but was unable to return to England because of his immigration status.

Thankfully, after his story was published, the British High Commission here intervened and made arrangements for him to return home.

However, it emerged that there are many more people like Mr Bogle in England. Not only have they been living there, but they have been working and paying taxes.

Basically, the first seeds of the current controversy were sown in 2012 when the then Home Secretary Mrs Theresa May launched a crackdown on immigration. The upshot is that many West Indian immigrants and their children — most of them born in the UK — are now being treated as undocumented or illegal migrants. That has now come back to bite her in the nether parts.

The issue of the treatment meted out to these individuals was greeted with public outcry, particularly after a series of stories by The Guardian newspaper in England which revealed that many of these individuals have now lost their homes, jobs and pension benefits, and have been denied National Health Service treatment and are being threatened with deportation.

Mrs May, now the prime minister, must have felt a bit uncomfortable to have to apologise yesterday to Caribbean leaders on the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in London. But apologise she did.

We are prepared to take her at her word that the people who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean before 1973 and have lived there permanently without significant periods of time away in the last 30 years have the right to remain.

We also welcome Mrs May's pledge that, “There will be no removals or detention as part of any assistance to help these citizens get their proper documentation in place.”

The British Government must now right the wrong done to those individuals who have suffered, and the Home Office should act on a call by Labour Party parliamentarian Mr David Lammy to review the deportations of elderly individuals since 2014.