The Windrush Scandal and Me

Windrush is a distressing thing to talk about, for several reasons. Mostly when thinking about those who were affected by the Home Office Hostile Environment policy, where, under Theresa May, they destroyed the landing cards of several hundred thousand Brits, invited over to help with the ailing NHS and transport systems in the 60’s and 70’s. Knowing that, in destroying this evidence, they removed any official proof that these Commonwealth people were legally allowed to stay in the UK. Having removed that key evidence, they then set about asking the very same people for the very proof they had destroyed. When the bewildered taxpaying UK resident failed in this request, they lost their rights. Right to stay in the UK, right to free NHS treatment and right to work.

To compound this extraordinary string of events, the HO was then permitted to police itself, effectively allowing the very people found guilty of creating the situation in the first place, to then decide who was deserving of recompense and how much. This inevitably created a secondary slew of injustices, as applicants had their claims channelled into endless requests for paperwork that again didn’t exist or was too hard to find, dating back as it did to the 70’s. Some claimants, having lost livelihoods and residency, were awarded piffling sums in the low hundreds of pounds, not even covering the losses they accrued. Some died of illnesses, unable as they were to find NHS treatment. Some remain abroad, unable to re-enter the UK, and having been away for so long, are now no longer counted as UK residents anyway, regardless of the fact they may have had homes and brought up families here.
My birthmother was Windrush, coming over in the early 60’s to work for the NHS. Falling pregnant, she was thrown out of nursing. She was terrified of being found illegal, despite being invited over. She’d heard stories. From the early 70’s she pursued UK Citizenship. She was refused, all the way, up until 3-weeks before she died of undiagnosed cancer (see earlier para about NHS treatment). She shelled out a quarter of all the savings she had, to buy a UK passport she was rightfully due, the day she arrived in the UK. She never actually received it before she passed in 2009.