Wed | Sep 18, 2019

Johnson brings fresh Windrush jitters

Published:Tuesday | August 20, 2019 | 12:18 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Desmond Jaddoo
Desmond Jaddoo

Fresh jitters have emerged among members of the Windrush Generation in the United Kingdom since Boris Johnson succeeded Theresa May as prime minister last month.

There are fears that the new prime minister could stymie efforts made to compensate immigrants who went to Britain following the Second World War who did not have the right documentation to prove their status in the UK and suffered adverse effects on their life as a result. The compensation arrangement resulted from backlash after stories emerged of several members of the Windrush Generation being denied state services, including access to healthcare, with some even being deported after failing to prove their legal residency status.

More than half of the British government’s Windrush Generation cases registered under the compensation scheme are Jamaican.

Concerns have been raised that Johnson, who is known for his swashbuckling style of politics, may not want to go along with existing compensation plans.

Chairman of the The Windrush Movement UK, Desmond Jaddoo, confirmed that a letter was sent to Johnson seeking assurances that the Windrush Scheme would not be watered down as a consequence of the leadership change.

Under the radar

He told The Gleaner that many of the affected persons remain under the radar of the British authorities.

He explained that the communiqué demands that Johnson carry through on previous statements he made on undocumented migrants, who are disproportionately members of the African and Caribbean communities.

“Clearly, Jamaicans in the UK are feeling the brunt of the government’s immigration policy. This needs to be addressed and the hostile environment suspended, especially bearing in mind the mentioned amnesty for undocumented migrants, which Mr Johnson mentioned during his campaign for the Conservative Party leadership, which led him to becoming prime minister,” Jaddoo said.

He said that urgent assurances are needed from Johnson in order to calm fears of members of the affected community.

“Can you assure us that the commitments made in order to address those caught up in the Windrush scandal – some of whom have suffered badly – will not be limited and that every effort will continue to be made in order to remedy this quickly with all of the necessary extensions that may be deemed necessary?” the letter stated.

“In terms of undocumented migrants, during your leadership campaign, you said that an amnesty for undocumented migrants who have been in the UK for 15 years is possible to obtain status in order that they may constructively contribute to the economy,” it further read.

In April, then Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that the UK would pay around £200m – and maybe more – in compensation to people whose lives were damaged by the Home Office’s mistaken classification of thousands of long-term British residents as illegal immigrants.

The announcement came almost a year after the government admitted that its treatment of the Windrush Generation had been “appalling” and promised reform of its immigration system and compensation to those affected by hostile environment policies.

Home Office officials claim at least 15,000 individuals may have a right to compensation for being wrongly deported, forced out of their jobs, or for the loss of access to benefits.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com