Windrush Day 2021: what is the Windrush generation - and the Windrush scandal political crisis explained

Windrush Day marks the arrival of the Empire Windrush in the UK and honours the contributions Caribbean migrants have made to British society

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 12:17 pm

Celebrated today, Windrush Day honours the contributions Caribbean migrants have made to British society.

Taking place on 22 June each year, the day commemorates the several hundred migrants from Caribbean countries who arrived at Tilbury Docks in London in 1948.

They had travelled thousands of miles on the Empire Windrush - the ship that brought the first large group of Caribbean migrants to the UK after World War II.

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Caribbean migrants are welcomed by RAF officials after the Empire Windrush landed them in London in 1948 (PA Media/Getty Images)

So, what is the Windrush generation - and what was the Windrush scandal?

Here is everything you need to know.

What is the Windrush generation?

The Empire Windrush carried 492 passengers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other islands to London in 1948 to help fill post-war labour shortages in the UK.

The ship’s passengers, many of them children, were granted the right to settle in the UK by the British Nationality Act 1948.

Those legal rights meant those who had migrated did not need documents when they arrived, allowing them to settle indefinitely in the country without restrictions.

After their arrival in Tilbury on 22 June 1948, passengers were temporarily housed in a shelter in south west London, close to an employment exchange in Brixton, where some of them sought work.

Many of the migrants only intended to stay in the UK for a few years, and although a number returned, the majority remained and settled permanently.

Those born in Caribbean countries who settled in the UK between 1948 and 1971 are now widely referred to as the “Windrush generation”.

It’s unclear how many people belong to the Windrush generation, but the number is thought to be in the thousands.

According to the University of Oxford estimates, more than 500,000 UK residents were born in a Commonwealth country and arrived before 1971.

Among the Windrush passengers was Jamaican-British campaigner Sam Beaver King, who went on to become the first black Mayor of the London borough of Southwark.

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What is Windrush Day?

Windrush Day was first commemorated three years ago in 2018, on the 70th anniversary of the Windrush migration.

Its aim is to celebrate, commemorate and educate communities on the leading role the Caribbean migrants from the 1940s and their descendants have played in making Britain stronger, culturally richer and more inclusive.

Since the ship’s arrival, the Windrush has come to symbolise the first movement of mass migration to the UK in the post-war era.

Events, from exhibitions to cultural programmes, are held annually to commemorate its arrival and the wave of immigration from Caribbean countries that followed.

What was the Windrush scandal?

The Windrush political scandal of 2018 saw scores of people wrongly detained, denied legal rights, and threatened with deportation by the UK’s Home Office.

When the Conservative government introduced its “hostile environment” immigrantion policy in the early 2010s, which was designed to make settling in the UK as difficult as possible for illegal immigrants, many of the Windrush generation fell foul of the new rules.

Under the 1971 Immigration Act, Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain.

But the Home Office kept no record of those granted leave to remain and issued no paperwork, making it difficult for Windrush arrivals to prove their legal status. Landing cards belonging to Windrush migrants were destroyed by the government in 2010.

This led to hundreds of people, who had lived in Britain their whole lives, suddenly being told they needed evidence to continue working, get NHS treatment or to even to remain in the UK. People were left fearful about their status.

A review of historical caes found that at least 83 individuals who had arrived before 1973 had been deported.

An inquiry into the scandal, which released its report in March last year, said it was “foreseeable and avoidable", and the report criticised "a culture of disbelief and carelessness" in the Home Office.

Then-Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to apologise to the Windrush generation for their treatment, and a compensation scheme was established.