Who are the Windrush Generation? Everything you need to know about the migration wave and its 70th anniversary


Friday marks 70 years since hundreds of Caribbeans disembarked the Empire Windrush ship in Tilbury Docks in Essex.

This marked the beginning of a wave of migration that helped repair post-war Britain. That generation and their contribution to the UK will be celebrated across the country.

Here is what you need to know:

What is the Windrush generation?

a large ship in a body of water: windrush2342355o.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited windrush2342355o.jpg It started with around 500 Caribbeans paying about £28 (£1,040 in today’s money) to travel to Britain in response to job adverts in local newspapers.

Having gained a type of citizenship under the British Nationality Act of 1948, they left a sunnier climate to seek greater opportunities in the UK facing a labor shortage after the Second World War.

They exited the vessel on June 22, 1948, having arrived the day before. The thousands who followed from colonies in the West Indies until 1971 became known as the Windrush generation.

Who was on the ship?

a man standing in front of a brick building: windrushgen2006d.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited windrushgen2006d.jpg

Jamaicans, Bermudans and Trinidadians were among those on board.  Some had fought for Britain during the war and many would go on to fill roles in the UK – including as cooks, nurses, engineers, carpenters and mechanics.

One passenger was Sam “Mr Windrush” King who became the first black mayor of Southwark in London and co-founded the Notting Hill Carnival.

Another was Lord Woodbine, a calypso musician whose real name was Harold Philips. He would be described as the “sixth Beatle” for his mentorship of the band during their fledgling years.

What about those who followed?

Many who pursued the pioneering group on the Windrush went on to be key in staffing the NHS, which also began its journey in 1948.

The generation is seen to come to a close with the 1971 Immigration Act, legislation guaranteeing the right of those already settled in the UK to remain indefinitely.

After that, a British passport-holder born overseas could only reside in the UK if they had a work permit and could also prove they had a parent or grandparent born in the UK.

How many people makeup that generation is unknown. But estimates by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory show more than 500,000 people living in the UK last year were born in Commonwealth countries before 1971.

So why has the Windrush generation been in the headlines of late?

It emerged that some from the Windrush generation was facing deportation and being denied access to healthcare, work, housing benefits, and pensions. They had the legal right to reside in the UK, but could not necessarily prove they had been in the country near-continuously, as new laws demand.

Many believed they had an automatic right to citizenship so had not got the paperwork. Some had arrived as children on a parent’s passport and officials admitted thousands of landing card slips recording their entry had been destroyed, eliminating vital evidence.

So far, the Government has identified 63 cases where people may have been wrongly deported as a result.

Many blamed the “hostile environment” to migrants championed by Theresa May when she led the Home Office.

How has the Government responded?

Sajid Javid wearing a suit and tie: sajid-javid23455.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited Sajid-javid23455.jpg

The Prime Minister said she was “genuinely sorry” for the anxiety caused.

Amber Rudd was forced out as home secretary and replaced by Sajid Javid, who vowed to ensure those caught up are treated with “decency and fairness” and signaled a softer approach to immigration policy.

But problems remain, with Mr Javid being urged to set up an emergency hardship fund to help those in dire financial situations because of the scandal.

The Government went on to announce an annual Windrush Day to “recognize and honor the enormous contribution” of those who disembarked at Tilbury 70 years earlier.

How will the 70th anniversary be celebrated?

Windrush passengers, politicians and other high-profile figures are expected to attend a thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey.

A celebration of Caribbean culture will be held at the Tilbury Docks, among the other celebrations nationwide.

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