On Saturday, a group of protesters marched from Parliament Square to the Home Office in solidarity with the members of the so-called Windrush generation facing the threat of deportation.
The demonstration follows Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s defence of being unaware of a memo she allegedly received last June stating the Home Office had set “a target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-2018”. She announced on Thursday that deportation targets, which were part of the “hostile environment” created by then-Home Secretary Theresa May in 2013, would be scrapped.
The protest was announced on Facebook with a statement. “The government’s abhorrent treatment of those from the Windrush generation is a national embarrassment,” the statement read. “Despite the government’s recent actions to attempt to rectify it, this never should have happened in the first place. This protest is to show our disgust at the government’s incompetence and to keep the pressure on them to keep their word”.
Speaking in front of the Home Office, organiser Sarah Burke said, “I am someone who is fed up with looking at the way this country treats people of color, particularly immigrants. I am someone who is here like all of you to say to this government: enough. This is not fair. The Windrush scandal is the latest in a long history of hostility towards West Indians.”
She added, “Now, in 2018, they’re being told to get out. When many of them are feeling settled, when many of them are finally feeling like the British citizens that they are and always have been. They’re being told to leave. They’re being denied healthcare, being denied employment, losing their homes.”
Activists from several social justice associations joined her outcry.
A member of Docs Not Cops, a campaign group formed by NHS workers and patients to fight policies aimed at charging migrants to access healthcare, mentioned the case of Albert Thompson. Mr Thompson (not his real name), a 63-year-old man suffering from prostate cancer, could not receive NHS treatment due to lack of documents proving his entitlement to care. The Doc Not Cops representative denounced “this vicious cycle of people who can’t access care, who are frightened to access care”.
Antonia Bright from Movement of Justice, an immigrants’ right group, didn’t mince words when she attacked institutions for their handling of the case. “This Home Office is responsible for deaths,” she said. “They rely on instilling fear in the communities, stigma between communities, between Africans and Caribbeans and Asians. They rely on dividing us.”
Recalling the public demonstrations over the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993, Unison Nec member Hugo Pierre encouraged everyone to take action. “We’ve got to oppose that austerity agenda by any way we can,” he said. “It’s an absolute scandal when you go through the Windrush cases and you see what has happened to them. Young people who have come here and then they’re being told that they don’t have the right to remain. We’ve got to fight every single one of those cases.”
More than 200 MPs have urged Theresa May to enshrine her promises in law to the Windrush generation.
In addition, over 130,000 people signed a petition calling for “amnesty” for the Commonwealth citizens who arrived from African and Caribbean countries in Britain between 1948 and 1971.