The Windrush Generation: a cause for immigration reform?

Who are the Windrush Generation?

The term ‘Windrush Generation’ has been widely adopted to refer to migrants that entered the UK between 1948 – 1971. Following the aftermath of World War II, families from Jamaica and other various Caribbean countries boarded the passenger liner ‘Empire Windrush’ and journeyed to Tilbury Docks in Essex. This influx of migrants jumpstarted a trend of migration, with more and more individuals travelling to the UK to assist in rebuilding post-war Britain. These migrants were invited by the British government, with the intention that they would help solve the issues surrounding labour shortages at the time; workers were required to rebuild roads, care for the sick and injured, and to assist with other state services as required. With approximately 500 passengers, the Windrush liner therefore offered a substantial opportunity to address workforce issues at the time.

Why has Immigration policy become an issue for them?

Following their migration to the UK, the 1971 Immigration Act was introduced; this prohibited non-UK Nationals from residing permanently in Britain.  This legislation meant that British passport holders who were born abroad would only be granted permanent residency in Britain if they had both a work permit and proof that a parent or grandparent had been born in the UK. Prior to this Act, any Commonwealth Citizens who has already migrated to the UK were granted indefinite leave to remain. However, due to a lack of residency evidence, many individuals of the Windrush generation are now struggling to prove their legal status. During the 1948 – 1971 migrations, many of the travellers were minors accompanying their parents and did not receive any documentation to prove that they entered the UK legally. Many members of the Windrush Generation do not have passports, due to a loss of documents or never being issued with one upon arrival.

What does this mean for the future of Immigration policy?

Following the introduction of a petition to grant the Windrush Generation amnesty, the online appeal has obtained 135,000 signatures, exceeding the 100,000 required in order for an issue to be debated in parliament. Following several weeks of debate, Prime Minister Theresa May is now planning to meet with the leaders of 12 Caribbean countries in an attempt to reach a resolve; the government have advised that they will be allocating a dedicated immigration taskforce, which will focus solely on fast-tracking Windrush Generation migrants. Officials have called for a review of existing Immigration processes, suggesting that there should be more flexibility surrounding what counts as adequate evidence of residency. National insurance numbers, birth and marriage certificates, medical records, schooling and qualifications are all documents that will potentially be accepted as proof of residency. Moving forward, the discussion will also likely focus on compensation for the loss and hurt of the families involved.

Written by Gabriella Vianello – Executive Assistant at Alchemy Global Talent Solutions.