The Commonwealth Games is underway and we are fast approaching Windrush @ 70, but there is a less than celebratory spotlight being placed on sections of our British Caribbean community by the Home Office.
Since the end of last year I had become aware of a small number of elders and others who had concerns about letters they had received from the Home Office. No one had contacted me directly, all cases were presented to me via friends of those in need of assistance. One such person was described as an elderly Jamaican woman who like many others had arrived in the UK with parents on their parents passport in the 1960s when many were invited over to become nurses to support a failing NHS and take on other jobs that desperately needed filing. This lady had not been back to Jamaica, had lived here all her adult life, worked here, had children here and made her home here in Bristol. Now she was seriously unwell with stress from being informed that she have no right stay here. Bristol Refugee Rights also raised the alarm more recently informing me that they had seen a number of people seeking advice on the matter with anticipation that those effected were probably more widespread.
Immigration law changed in 1971 and whilst those here pre 1971 are able to stay here, the issue has arisen in part due to both the rising ‘hostile environment’ matched with difficulties in finding or securing evidence and papers confirming someones length of time here.
In June it will be 70 years since Windrush – the ship that brought a wave of Caribbean immigrants to the UK. Eager, proud and ready to work, this Windrush generation were met with hostility, hate and sub standard living conditions but non the less worked hard not only to improve their economic conditions and that of Britain but they also embellished British culture and left a huge cultural legacy. Their contribution like that of their ancestors who were colonized and enslaved enabled the modern development of Great Britain, from fuelling the industrial revolution to sound system culture, language and food – the contribution has been immense and it makes it all the more difficult to not take offence to these latest actions by the Home Office.
I work with a large group of Caribbean elders every week and I was eager not to wait until a friend or neighbour had a letter from the Home Office before taking action, so with consultation from others I began the petition calling for an immigration amnesty. As well as being a local councillor I am also affiliated with both the Afrikan Connexions Consortium (ACC ) and Greens of Colour UK (GOC) who both support the petition and campaign along with the Malcolm X Centre. For the ACC, the petition is an element of the Stop The Maangamizi Campaign. Preventing these deportations, implementing the immigration amnesty and allowing these people to stay and rightly benefit from the contributions made by themselves and their enslaved and colonized Ancestors to the building of Britain, is a necessary step toward Reparatory Justice. Patrick Vernon has also launched a Government petition also calling for an Amnesty. We hope that this double pronged approach will ensure the justice we need for our elders.