The Windrush Debacle

A number of people who arrived in the UK as children in the first wave of Commonwealth immigration – known as the ‘Windrush generation’ – have been threatened with deportation on the basis they are illegal immigrants as they have no paperwork.

When the first of the Windrush generation arrived in the UK in 1948, there were no immigration restrictions on their entry. The Immigration Act 1971 saw an end to free movement, imposing immigration restrictions on all nationalities. Those who were settled in the UK prior to the Act’s implementation were automatically entitled to stay indefinitely in the UK. However, they did not receive any official paperwork to show this and the Home Office did not keep a record of these people; which has since resulted in difficulty in proving their right to be in the UK.

The 1999 Immigration Act addressed this issue, containing a clause which provided longstanding Commonwealth residents with protection from removal. Yet this was mysteriously deleted by its successor Act in 2014 without parliamentary vote. The legislation removing this protection was implemented whilst Theresa May was Home Secretary. The legislation has created an increasingly hostile immigration environment, the effects of which are only now under scrutiny.

Whilst many of the Windrush generation have since acquired British citizenship, or a document evidencing their status here, many have not. Due to the tightening of immigration laws, these individuals are required to show evidence of their right to be in the UK. Without official evidence, many are at risk of losing their jobs, being made homeless or being refused urgent healthcare on the basis that they are not lawfully in the UK under current legislation. Without the protection of the clause enshrined in the 1999 Act, these individuals face deportation if they are unable to prove their residence in the UK before 1973, a situation in which an increasing number of Commonwealth citizens are now reported to have found themselves.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has commented that the Home Office had ‘lost sight of individuals’ and become ‘too concerned with policy’, a policy which was introduced under Theresa May. The Prime Minister has since apologised; however, this apology has come too late for many, four years after its impact has detrimentally affected a growing number of Commonwealth individuals.

Individuals are advised to apply to the Home Office for confirmation of their status. Whilst this is not a formal application, there is a prescribed form (No Time Limit) and a fee of £229, although there is a suggestion that this fee will be waived.

Tilly Snow