Catherine West MP
Catherine West MP

My article for the Times Red Box on the shameful treatment of the Windrush Generation by Theresa May and her Conservative Government.  Published 17 April 2018.

“First Theresa May’s left thousands of EU nationals in limbo whilst she obsessively pursues a policy of Hard Brexit, now she turns her back on a generation who helped us re-emerge from the ashes of war.

It’s a Friday morning. I am in Wood Green Library holding an advice surgery for my local constituents. A man in his mid-50’s holds his head in his hands and starts to cry.

He arrived in the UK on his mother’s passport in the summer of 1968. His family chose to settle in the London Borough of Haringey, an area with a proud tradition of welcoming immigrants and celebrating the contribution they make to our society.

Since leaving school, this man has been in virtually continuous employment, working for Transport for London. He has a national insurance number. He has paid his taxes. He has voted. He has got married and he has brought up his family here.

Yet this father, now faces deportation.

Britain is an island built on immigration: from the Huguenots in the 1670s to the Russian Jews in 1880s to the more recent waves of migrants from the European Union. Each wave enriched our economy and our culture, but the landing of the HMT Empire Windrush was special.

The Windrush Generation were proactively invited to the UK, as citizens, to help rebuild our country after destruction inflicted upon us by World War Two. They built our homes, schools and hospitals; repaired our railways; drove our trains; maintained our roads and they continue to account for massive proportion of NHS workers.

Despite this, thousands now face detention and possible deportation. This gross injustice is not an accident-; it is a direct result of the ‘hostile environment’ policy that successive Tory Home Secretaries and Governments have pursued, most infamously when Theresa May, the then Home Secretary literally rolled out ‘Go Home’ vans to stoke fear into our communities.

The antagonistic environment inevitably means that suspicion is cast on people who have every right to be here. Some of these cases have arisen because people have been refused free treatment on the NHS or because of a change of job or address. And we already know that this policy has led to some people being deported in error.

The phrase “the Home Office is not fit for purpose” is one that has been thrown at successive Home Secretaries. However, this scandal is not just a major administrative failure, this is a political failure on the part of the Government to recognise the invaluable role these citizens have played in our communities for over six decades.

As the flags of 53 nations fly in Parliament Square and down The Mall to celebrate Commonwealth Day, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary must act now, to not only apologise for this gross insult to the Windrush generation, but also to guarantee the residency rights of these children of the Windrush.”

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