Media Coverage of the Windrush Generation

Published: 15 June 2018

Country: UK

By Angelo Boccato

Windrush_2The British Parliament Home affairs select committee called for a hardship fund to be set up by the government in order to help victims of the Windrush scandal who have fallen into financial difficulties.

“Members of the Windrush generation, who arrived in the UK from 1948, as well as their children, have been wrongly targeted and in some cases left destitute by Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policies, which require employers, NHS staff, private landlords and other bodies to demand evidence of people’s citizenship or immigration status”, reports the Guardian. The Guardian’s coverage has led to a public apology from Prime Minister Theresa May and the resignation of former Home Secretary Amber Rudd – a direct result of pressure from the paper over the Windrush scandal.

While the figures of the Windrush generation members who have been deported has not been clarified by the Home Office so far, it has been revealed that more than 7,600 people have been return to Commonwealth countries including Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, Sri Lanka and Jamaica on charter flights escorted by security officials since 2010.

A condemnation of the Windrush scandal has been voiced by various British media. In the Spectator, Brendan O’ Neill has labelled it as “the blackest mark yet against PM Theresa May’s government”. The Guardian’s view has described the PM’s apology to the Windrush generation overdue and inadequate, while Stephen Bush has pointed out in the New Statesman, “the problem does not come from incompetence, but rather from malice”.

Other views have extended the debate to British immigration policies in their entirety. David Goodhart wrote for the Telegraph that “despite the ‘Home Office’s incompetence’ there is no reason to end the hostile environment”, while Nesrine Malik’s op-ed in the Guardian says: “It’s not just Windrush. Theresa May has created hostility to all migrants”.

When it comes to the history of the Windrush generation, it is important to underline that they came to the United Kingdom as citizens and that they were invited, as post-war Britain was in strong need of labour force.

Back then the newspaper of the British Communist Party, the Daily Worker, ran a headline “Five Hundred Pairs of Wlling Hands” referring to the Empire Windrush passengers. In 1948 London Evening Standard published a piece titled “Welcome Home” since people of that generation grew up considering the United Kingdom as their mother country.

Despite that, the new British citizens from the West Indies ended up facing racism in Britain and a BBC television programme labelled that generation as a ‘colonial problem on our hands’ in 1955.

In the following decades, the lack of representation in the media of the community also led and inspired the birth of several publications, including The Voice founded in 1982.

For what concerns the development of such debate, there are two other views worth considering.

Peter Reid, Director of the Brixton-based Black Cultural Archives told the London Evening Standard that the Windrush fiasco should be used to promote black history in schools, while the Guardian’s editor-at-large Gary Younge wrote that “the best way to repay the Windrush generation is by learning from the past mistakes in terms of policies of hostilty towards immigrants, after securing the citizenship of all who are entitled to it”.

As the Guardian has found, the Windrush migrants are still sleeping rough while waiting for Home Office meetings, an element that shows that the struggle of British citizens of Caribbean descent is far from over and that they may not be alone in the future, as in the wake of the Brexit ‘implementation’ , the children of EU nationals may face similar struggles in the future.

Despite Amber Rudd’s fall, the nature of institutional racism of the scandal is not removed, as Hugh Muir pointed out on the Guardian and related stories can be expected to remain part of a conversation and debate on the hostile environment developed by the UK government migration policies.