From the Caribbean to the UK: The epochal journey of the Windrush generation

August 23, 2023  -Seventy-five years ago, the HMT Empire Wind rush made its historic landing in Til bury, Essex, from the Caribbean. With over 1,000 souls aboard, over 800 cited their recent residence from Caribbean nations.

The diverse mix of passengers included Jamaicans, Trinidadians, St Lucians, Grenadians, and Barbadians, among others. Notably, many had previously worn British military uniforms during World War Two.

A new beginning in the UK 

These voyagers, among others who would follow in ships until 1971, became celebrated as the Wind rush generation.

They were part of the rebuilding effort in post-War Britain, filling labor gaps and finding their niche in various professions, from manual labor to nursing in the newly-founded National Health Service.

By the 1948 British Nationality Act, colonial denizens were granted rights to work and settle in the UK, a gesture towards stabilizing both the UK and Caribbean economies.

Windrush day: An annual tribute

Since 2018, every 22nd of June commemorates Windrush Day.

The 75th anniversary saw a flourish of national events: concerts, exhibitions, and academic seminars that celebrated this generation’s contribution.

Windrush migrants monument
National Windrush Monument unveiled at Waterloo Station in London.
  • Windrush Caribbean Film Festival Celebrates the Pioneers of the Windrush Generation
  • Jamaican Government Unveils Exhibition Honoring Windrush Generation
  • Jamaica welcomes compensation package for Wind rush generation

The scandal that rocked the nation

A BBC article highlights that despite the Windrush generation’s pivotal role in British society, the 2018 revelation shocked the nation.

The Home Office had not only failed to document the rights of Commonwealth citizens but had also discarded their landing cards in 2010.

These oversights stripped many of their legal statuses, barring them from essentials like healthcare, employment, and housing. Worse, some faced deportation threats.

Investigations unveiled that at least 83 individuals who had come to the UK before 1973 were mistakenly deported.

Governmental reactions to the scandal

Amidst growing public outcry in 2018, then-Prime Minister Theresa May extended a formal apology. An exhaustive inquiry followed, wrapping up in 2020, which pointed fingers at “a culture of disbelief and carelessness” within the Home Office.

The inquiry also left a legacy of 30 recommendations. However, as of January 2023, three pivotal commitments from the inquiry were retracted by the Home Office, sparking controversy.

The Wind rush compensation scheme: Good intentions, flawed execution?

Launched in April 2019, this scheme was designed to redress the wrongs faced by approximately 15,000 eligible individuals.

Yet, the scheme has repeatedly come under fire. Critics point to prolonged processing times, subpar offers, and unjustified denials – many of which were overturned on appeal.

As of 2021, the Home Affairs Committee flagged the scheme as an added source of distress for claimants.

Human Rights Watch followed suit in 2023, suggesting the scheme’s management shift away from the Home Office. In its defense, the Home Office cited over £68m already disbursed or offered in compensation, while reaffirming their pledge to prevent recurrences of such grievances.

Estimated demographics today

According to the BBC, it is hard to pin down exact figures, but it is believed several thousands from the Windrush generation still reside in the UK.

This number is a fraction of the over 500,000 UK inhabitants born in a Commonwealth nation pre-1971, as estimated by the University of Oxford.

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