LONDON – National Windrush Day is being observed in London for the second consecutive year on Monday paying tribute to the contribution of Britons of Caribbean origin, who were later detained or deported as illegal immigrants.
National Windrush Day commemorates the day in 1948 when the Empire Windrush ship first arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex, southeast England, carrying the Caribbean migrants to help fill jobs in Britain.
In a video message, the Prince of Wales has spoken of the “debt of gratitude” Britain owes the Windrush generation.
“Today offers an opportunity to express the debt of gratitude we owe to that first Windrush generation for accepting the invitation to come to Britain and, above all, to recognise the immeasurable difference that they, their children and their grandchildren have made to so many aspects of our public life,” said Prince Charles.
“I dearly hope that we can continue to listen to each other’s stories and to learn from one another. The diversity of our society is its greatest strength and gives us so much to celebrate,” he added.
The British government has said that it is determined to “right the wrongs” of its treatment of those migrants and that Interior Minister Priti Patel and Bishop Derek Webley, will chair a cross-government working group to address the scandal.
In honour of Windrush Day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is meeting Bishop and representatives of the British Caribbean community.
The newly-launched working group will bring together stakeholders and community leaders with government officials to address the challenges faced by the Windrush generation and their descendants.
The author of a report into the Windrush scandal, Wendy Williams, is warning there is a “grave risk” of similar failures happening again if the government does not implement its recommendations.
Wendy Williams, speaking on a BBC radio programme, said the Home Office still needed to “make good on its commitment to learn the lessons”.
An estimated 500,000 people now living in the UK who arrived between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries have been called the Windrush generation. They were granted indefinite leave to remain in 1971 but thousands were children travelling on their parents’ passports, without their own documents.
Changes to immigration law in 2012 meant those without documents were asked for evidence to continue working, access services or even to remain in the UK.
In the report, published in March, Williams was critical of the “hostile environment” policy operated by successive governments to tackle illegal immigration. She said the Home Office and ministers “should have realised the impact” of the legislation on different groups of people.
The report concluded the Home Office had shown “ignorance and thoughtlessness” on the issue of race when some people were incorrectly told they did not have the right to be in Britain.
The government said it gave £500,000 (US$621,000) to English community groups and local authorities to host events to mark National Windrush Day.