Windrush campaigners demand citizenship for all families in first 100 days of new government

Windrush campaigners demand citizenship for all families in first 100 days of new government

Ahead of Windrush Day anti-racism charities have unveiled a ‘Home Office scandal manifesto’ with demands ahead of the election

Jamaican immigrants welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office after the ex-troopship HMT ‘Empire Windrush’ landed them at Tilbury.

Campaigners are demanding citizenship to be granted to all families affected by the Home Office’s Windrush scandal within the first 100 days of the new government.

Ahead of Windrush Day celebrations on Saturday, a coalition of anti-racism charities and groups has unveiled a “Home Office scandal manifesto”, outlining key demands for new ministers after the 4 July general election.

The “manifesto for Windrush justice” calls for the government to give British citizenship and waive passport fees for everyone affected by the Windrush scandal who arrived before 1 January 1973 and their children, as well as an amnesty for Commonwealth citizens who have lived in the UK for more than 30 years.

Campaigners say a significant backlog exists in the Windrush documentation scheme and that the government’s own estimates suggest more than 50,000 people may be eligible.

The manifesto, led by the Action for Race Equality charity (Are), calls for urgent reforms to heal the “unconscionable” trauma inflicted on Windrush generations, including a statutory inquiry into the scandal.

Glenda Caesar, community campaigner and survivor of the Windrush scandal, said: “It’s time the Windrush generation received full and rightful recognition as British citizens and real progress is made to rectify the harm done by the scandal.

“With this important Windrush manifesto launch, Windrush advocates and community leaders would like to remind all political parties that the Windrush generation were invited to the UK to help rebuild Great Britain.

“They were proud to call themselves British. Remembering their vital contribution, we all ask the next government to end discriminatory legislation and unfair practices that foster hostility towards the Windrush generation and their families.”

The Windrush Scheme for documentation was set up in 2018 to issue documents to people affected by the scandal, so they can demonstrate their right to citizenship.

While 16,800 people have been given papers through the scheme, it is estimated that at least 57,500 people may be eligible.

The manifesto was developed in collaboration with grassroots advocacy groups under Are’s three-year £1m Windrush Justice Programme,incorporating a survey of 1,200 people.

Are urges ministers to impose a legal duty on public services to provide automatic access to primary care, counselling and support for those affected by the scandal, similar to the Armed Forces Covenant for veterans.

Currently, applicants to the Windrush Compensation Scheme (WCS) are not eligible for legal aid, resulting in many being priced out of hiring lawyers. The manifesto urges the next government to fund legal representation.

The calls for action come after the High Court ruled on Wednesday that the government’s decision to drop some of the 30 recommendations from an independent review into the Windrush scandal was unlawful.

Patrick Vernon, Are Windrush justice programme advisor, said it is essential that the government resolves the Windrush scandal, which he describes as “one of the biggest examples of human rights abuses faced by British citizens in this century”.

He said: “Are’s manifesto pulls together key concerns held by the Windrush generation, their families and their advocates, with clear demands for change to help the future government resolve one of the biggest examples of human rights abuses faced by British citizens in this century.”

The Windrush scandal erupted in 2018 with the revelation that changes to immigration and citizenship laws since 1948 left many predominantly Black Caribbean people and their families unable to prove their right to live and work in the UK.

It led to devastating consequences, including loss of employment, homes, and access to life-saving medical services.

The Windrush Compensation Scheme was created in 2019 but human rights, race equality, and community groups have criticised it as unfit for purpose due to its complexity and delays.

As of March 2024, the scheme has disbursed £85.86m across 2,382 claims – out of a predicted 15,000 eligible claims – and provided citizenship documents to more than 16,800 individuals.

This weekend, events will be held around the country to mark Windrush Day, the 76th anniversary of the 1948 HMT Empire Windrush ship’s arrival in Britain, carrying hundreds of Caribbean-British migrants who were invited to rebuild the “Mother Country” following the Second World War.

Windrush Day events include a replica Windrush ship moving down the streets of Brixton, south London, to Windrush Square on Saturday, and a “Big Caribbean lunch” in the square with food, music and storytelling on Sunday, along with Windrush Caribbean Film Festival screenings.

Birmingham will host a carnival procession with live performances and food, as well as a special event where Brendan Batson will discuss the Windrush legacy for football.

The Windrush flag will be raised at ceremonies in cities including Leeds, Bradford, Liverpool, Manchester and Bristol, as well as at NHS hospitals and mainline train stations across the UK.

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