May Apologizes To Windrush Generation
The British government apologized this week to the Windrush generation — Caribbeans who moved to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s and have since been threatened with deportation. The apology proceeded the Commonwealth leaders summit this week and is considered a response to the increasing pressure by more than 140 British MPs on Prime Minister Theresa May.
In her public apology, May said she is “genuinely sorry” about the anxiety the Windrush generation had to live with. For decades, the UK Home Office has threatened individuals with deportation and the loss of housing, jobs, and healthcare.
The “hostile environment” policy — a term often used in reference to a situation where the government simply makes the lives of paperless migrants so intolerable that they would leave themselves — became worse since May introduced additional restrictions during her time as home secretary. Amongst other laws, migrants now have to prove that they arrived prior to 1973, a requirement that understandably poses several difficulties for many.
The British government faces serious allegations — the fact that the Windrush generation originally migrated to Britain as a response to a British invitation due to a severe labor shortage after the Second World War makes London seem additionally irrational. Accordingly, various leaders of the 53 Commonwealth countries expressed their solidarity with the Windrush generation. Labour lawmaker Diane Abbott said that “When the Commonwealth heads of government are gathered in London, what a disgrace it is that this government has treated Commonwealth migrants in this way.”
In Britain, members of Parliament found very clear words for the injustice that was done to the Windrush generation. David Lammy, himself a second-generation migrant, referred to the policies as “inhuman and cruel” and the date of their revelations as “a day of national shame”.
Before the policy changes in 2012, Britain was known for having a relatively lenient immigration policy, as it didn’t require a national identity card and accepted many people without passports. But in 2012, the government tightened its laws and started requiring people to prove their legal status in order to obtain basic needs such as bank accounts, leases, and health insurance.
As many of these policies were initiated by May, her apology is commonly suspected to be a mere response to the increasing pressure. It remains to be seen how much harm the recent revelations will actually do to the prime minister’s aspired building of economic ties with Commonwealth countries.