A house in Herne Hill proudly bears a blue plaque commemorating Sam King, a freeman of the borough of Southwark, the first black Mayor of Southwark, longstanding councillor and outstanding member of the local community. Originally from Jamaica he came to this country on the Empire Windrush in 1948 and raised his 2 children and 3 grandchildren here. Sam exemplified that generation of patriotic British people from the Caribbean who came here to help us rebuild after the Second World War.
In recognition of that they had a right to stay indefinitely as British citizens. So everyone has been dismayed and outraged at what has been done to them. Having worked here, paid their taxes and raised their families here over the decades they were swept up in the net supposedly designed for illegal immigrants. Challenged to produce pages and pages of documentation from years gone by. Those who couldn’t produce this documentation weren’t able to claim their pensions, receive NHS treatment or claim benefits and many landlords evicted them as illegal immigrants and employers sacked them from their work. And this has hit people from the Windrush Generation living in Southwark. Like the man who came from Jamaica at the age of 19, served in the British Army for 12 years, brought up 3 children, but after living here for 50 years was told he could not have a passport unless he paid a fee and ‘became a British citizen’. The point is he already was a British citizen. I’ve protested on his behalf and am pressing the Home Secretary for a quick response.
Despite the fact that it’s been months since this scandal was first exposed by campaigners such as Tottenham MP David Lammy, Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott MP and Amelia Gentleman of the Guardian, the Government still haven’t dealt with this mistake and don’t even appear to know the number of people who have been detained and deported.
Together with 140 other MPs I’ve written to the Prime Minister urging her to immediately guarantee the rights of the Windrush Generation. As Chair of Parliament’s Select Committee on Human Rights I’ve summoned new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, to come and give evidence and explain why these law abiding British people were threatened by the Government and in some cases locked up.
We are calling on the Government to immediately and fully compensate people for their financial loss and emotional distress. This has been a shameful episode and one which should cause a rethink about how the immigration system, whilst clearly maintaining firm borders, must respect and uphold human rights.