Mayor calls on Home Secretary to demonstrate action on Windrush 'travesties'
Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville has called on the new Home Secretary to undo immigration policies which led to members of the borough’s ‘Windrush generation’ being refused access to public services and threatened with deportation.
Writing to Sajid Javid, who took over the Home Office last month and pledged to review the current system and ‘do the right thing’, Mayor Glanville said:
"I write to you to express my deep personal concern, and the concern of thousands of Hackney residents, about the Government’s treatment of those who relocated from the Caribbean between 1948 to 1971, known as the Windrush generation.
"Hackney has a long cherished history of migration which has made it the special place it is today. About 8% of its population is of Afro-Caribbean ethnicity and, though the Council does not have precise figures, it’s believed the borough is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of the Windrush generation, and many more come from Commonwealth countries across the globe. They and their children have, and continue to, contribute a huge amount to Hackney, and are at the heart of the borough’s rich diversity and vibrant culture. Indeed, Hackney is about to embark on celebrations and events to mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush into Tilbury in 1948.
"To see valued members of society being treated as second class citizens by your government has left me, and I imagine any fair-minded individual, appalled. It is entirely without justification and the Home Office’s cold approach to the enforcement of its ill-conceived ‘hostile environment’ immigration policies has been startlingly inhumane. Hackney Council and voluntary and community sector organisations across the borough have repeatedly heard first-hand about the terrible impact Home Office policies are having on local people’s lives. They are devastating individuals and families, and hundreds of residents are living in a climate of fear and uncertainty.
"As well the personal anguish this ‘hostile environment’ approach has had on British citizens, it is leading to a host of other negative policy outcomes. Fear of drawing attention to themselves and facing deportation is acting as a barrier to people who are not undocumented migrants from accessing services and advice to which they are fully entitled. Areas particularly affected include health and mental health services, housing support, and employee rights advice, and the result is often exploitation and discrimination.
"Residents not accessing the services they need results in considerable negative knock-on effects for them and the wider system. We are experiencing a growing number of individuals and families presenting as having No Recourse to Public Funds, meaning families are only supported once they are found to be destitute in line with Section 17 of the Children Act, which has a clear impact on the welfare of children and adults.
"I welcome your comments last month, on becoming Home Secretary, that you would now ‘do the right thing’ and look very carefully at the existing system to make it more fair and humane. This was a much needed show of commitment to thousands of citizens who have contributed so much and played a central role in Britain’s success over the past 70 years.
"I would appreciate an update on what actions your department is taking to resolve the issues surrounding the status of the Windrush generation? I would also be pleased to hear more about changes you intend to make to dismantle the ‘hostile environment’ policies which are causing such concern among Hackney residents.
"As a Council we are also keen to support any of our residents who have been adversely affected. I would welcome any information you have on Hackney residents who were part of the Windrush generation, their current status, and how we can support them or best direct them to support.
"Finally, there is a growing concern that the Windrush issue is simply the tip of the iceberg. Policies to make life difficult for non-documented migrants is impacting on many who are non-white British. There is increasing discrimination in access to services, housing, jobs and wider participation in our communities. Also, Hackney has many highly skilled migrants who increasingly are being asked to meet stringent tests to remain in the UK. Current immigration policies are threatening community cohesion and economic growth in culturally diverse boroughs such as Hackney. It also makes me concerned for the 40,000 Hackney residents with EU citizenship, who might face similar challenges in years to come if they lose their documents or fall on hard times.
"I share the view of many, including Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, that the Immigration Act 2014 needs to be amended to stop any further travesties such as Windrush, as well as more general societal and economic issues. Can you tell what, if any, elements of the Act you will be looking to address to make it a more humane and sensible piece legislation fit for a 21st Century Britain?”
Between 1948 to 1971, the Government invited thousands of people from Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean to relocate to Britain to address labour shortages. They were named the ‘Windrush generation’ after the ship Empire Windrush on which the first group arrived.
Despite widely being considered British citizens, many didn’t receive formal papers and new laws which came into force with the Immigration Act 2014 have led to many recently being refused access to public services and threatened with deportation.
Hackney resident and former councillor Patrick Vernon launched an online petition urging the Government to stop deportations, change the burden of proof and offer an amnesty for those who travelled across as children. It received almost 180,000 signatures and was debated in Parliament.