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Invited to the UK decades ago, now they must prove they're British

They came to help rebuild Britain after the devastation of World War Two, invited by the UK government to lay roads, ...

Posted: Apr 16, 2018 7:35 PM
Updated: Apr 16, 2018 7:35 PM

They came to help rebuild Britain after the devastation of World War Two, invited by the UK government to lay roads, drive buses, clean hospitals and nurse the sick.

Known as the Windrush generation -- the first of their numbers came on the Empire Windrush passenger liner in June 1948 -- they were the first large group of Caribbean migrants to arrive in the UK. They came to symbolize the seismic demographic changes that took place in post-war Britain, when hundreds of thousands of people came to the United Kingdom from former British colonies, known as the Commonwealth.

But in recent years, successive British governments have sought to appear tough on illegal immigration, and their descendants are now struggling to prove a citizenship status they previously took for granted. In essence, the children of the Windrush generation are being told they might not be British after all.

Yet the Windrush generation are not illegal immigrants. Until a new immigration law came into force in 1973, Commonwealth citizens and their children had the automatic right to live and work in the UK. Many did so, without any need for additional documentation.

In recent years, however, changes to UK immigration law have caused significant problems for many of them.

'Hostile environment'

Regulations introduced by Prime Minister Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary in the previous Conservative government led by David Cameron, require employers, landlords and health service providers to demand evidence of legal immigration status. In 2012, May described the measures as designed to create a "hostile environment" for people who were in the UK illegally.

The trouble is, many of the Windrush children don't have the required documentation. As a consequence, some lost their jobs, others were evicted from their homes, and a few were reported to have been threatened with deportation.

The bubbling controversy exploded into a full-blown scandal at the weekend. For the first time in 20 years, the UK is hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, a biennial summit of leaders of Commonwealth nations. A delegation of Commonwealth leaders requested a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss the Windrush issue, which Downing Street -- to widespread consternation -- declined.

Stung by a wave of negative publicity, the government backed down and said a meeting would take place. Forced to appear before MPs in the House of Commons, Home Secretary Amber Rudd apologized for the "appalling" treatment of some of the Windrush migrants and promised that none of them would be deported for lack of documentation.

But many have gone through months of agony.

Glenda Caesar was just six months old in 1961 when she traveled from Dominica to the UK with her parents. After working for 16 years as an administrator with the National Health Service, she suddenly lost her job as she could not provide the necessary documentation.

"I worked as an administrator for the NHS and was told I have to leave as I did not have UK status," she told CNN. "I am not working at present and still need documentation on my father and school or medical records as the final part."

Labour MP David Lammy said in a tweet Monday that what was happening was "grotesque, immoral and inhumane," and has rallied around 140 fellow MPs from all parties to call on the Prime Minister to immediately address the issue in parliament.

Guy Hewitt, the Barbados High Commissioner to Britain, said the scandal had affected many people. "They find themselves abandoned and made destitute by a country they have given their lives to," he told Sky News on Monday.

Patrick Vernon, an expert on Caribbean family history in the UK, organized a petition that received more than the 100,000 signatures required for a debate on the issue to be held in parliament.

"It's like telling the descendants of fourth generation Irish immigrants to the US that suddenly you might not be American after all and could be deported," Vernon told CNN.

Vernon said he knew of people desperately trying to find photos of themselves in school playgrounds to prove how long they had been in the UK.

Conservative MP and Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, said he was "deeply concerned" to hear about the difficulties some from the Windrush generation are facing, in a tweet on Monday.

"This should not happen to people who have been longstanding pillars of our community," Javid said, adding that the government is looking into this matter "urgently."

Satbir Singh, Chief Executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants told CNN, called on the government to ease the process for members of the Windrush generation who sought to regularize their immigration status. "The government needs to make a clear guarantee that people seeking clarification of their status should have their rights guaranteed while they are doing so," he said.

Singh said many of the people caught out are low-income earners who have not required a passport. And although it has been people from the Caribbean who have entered the media spotlight, there are also other people from former colonies in South Asia and Africa who might be affected,

By switching the onus on checking documents to the private sector, such as landlords and healthcare providers, he said the system has become "blatantly racist."

"I'm second generation Indian and no matter how British my English is, I will always look like an immigrant," he said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 767409

Reported Deaths: 13980
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1054251805
Lake569191030
Allen42938698
St. Joseph37313568
Hamilton37298426
Elkhart29749470
Tippecanoe23479230
Vanderburgh23201405
Porter19573327
Johnson18822392
Hendricks18072321
Madison13548346
Clark13533198
Vigo12834256
LaPorte12566225
Monroe12546178
Delaware11143198
Howard10672237
Kosciusko9777124
Hancock8740150
Bartholomew8262157
Warrick8069157
Floyd8027182
Grant7366181
Wayne7233201
Boone7184105
Morgan6910143
Marshall6332116
Dubois6274118
Cass6090111
Dearborn601278
Noble599290
Henry5947111
Jackson516377
Shelby510898
Lawrence4922127
Gibson462696
Montgomery458192
Clinton455255
DeKalb455285
Harrison453577
Whitley415745
Huntington415582
Steuben410660
Miami405573
Jasper401155
Knox388391
Putnam385062
Wabash369083
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Ripley351271
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White339654
Daviess3090100
Wells303581
Greene293485
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Fayette286364
Posey281735
Scott280058
LaGrange277572
Clay273348
Washington254037
Randolph247783
Jennings239449
Spencer238731
Fountain235250
Starke229859
Owen222659
Sullivan221343
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Jay202932
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Orange191156
Perry189739
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Pulaski123648
Newton123036
Benton109715
Brown106043
Crawford105616
Martin92515
Warren87715
Switzerland8348
Union73610
Ohio58111
Unassigned0428

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1123964

Reported Deaths: 20490
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1304331493
Cuyahoga1172542263
Hamilton824421261
Montgomery535421062
Summit489021014
Lucas43747834
Butler40000614
Stark33837939
Lorain26029510
Warren24919312
Mahoning22710613
Lake21472396
Clermont20391261
Delaware19143138
Licking16863227
Trumbull16801492
Fairfield16793207
Medina15861276
Greene15528254
Clark14352308
Portage13432218
Wood13343201
Allen12049245
Richland11740213
Miami11019228
Wayne9258228
Columbiana9204236
Muskingum9133137
Pickaway8750123
Tuscarawas8718255
Marion8710140
Erie8135166
Ashtabula7281179
Hancock7048135
Ross7024165
Geauga6962153
Scioto6701108
Belmont6222179
Lawrence5947104
Union590949
Jefferson5725162
Huron5638122
Sandusky5488130
Darke5444131
Seneca5377128
Washington5371111
Athens526960
Auglaize507487
Mercer491185
Shelby482797
Knox4614113
Madison447566
Ashland444898
Defiance438799
Fulton436375
Putnam4354104
Crawford4114111
Brown409662
Preble3949107
Logan392179
Clinton390766
Ottawa375881
Highland366068
Williams356678
Champaign349660
Guernsey330554
Jackson321354
Perry298850
Morrow294743
Fayette289150
Hardin279365
Henry277167
Coshocton272961
Holmes2725102
Van Wert252265
Adams249858
Gallia249850
Pike244737
Wyandot235257
Hocking222963
Carroll201249
Paulding179942
Meigs151240
Monroe137945
Noble137739
Harrison115238
Morgan111624
Vinton87317
Unassigned04
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