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Episode 1 - Windrush: "The fallout from a toxic policy"
July 2018
HMT Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in June 1948, carrying Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies from Jamaica, and signalled the start of the post-war revival in which the hard work of new arrivals proved vital.
Now those very same people and their families, are suffering the repercussions of Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ policy towards immigrants. 

Background to the Windrush Scandal

The hostile environment policy is a set of administrative and legislative measures designed to make staying in the United Kingdom as difficult as possible for people without leave to remain, in the hope that they may "self deport". In 2012, the then Home Secretary Theresa May stated that "The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants", in order to reduce immigration figures to the levels promised in the 2010 Conservative Party Election Manifesto. However, the ruling which the Home Office used in October 2010 to carry out the destruction of the refugee status cards was originally made by the UK Border Agency in June 2009.

The Home Office received repeated warnings from 2013 onwards that very many Windrush generation legal residents were wrongly being counted as illegal immigrants. Legal advisers told the Home Office that older Caribbean born people were being wrongly targeted. The Refugee and Migrant Centre in Wolverhampton said their caseworkers saw hundreds of people wrongly receiving Capita letters maintaining they had no right to be in the UK. Roughly half the letters went to people already with leave to remain, or regularising their immigration position with the Home Office. Some were told to arrange to leave the UK at once. Caseworkers repeatedly told the Home Office and also told local MPs who contacted the Home Office. People wrongly considered illegal were sometimes wrongly refused housing services. Immigrants have been wrongly detained and deprived of liberty. 

In November 2017 until April 2018, the British government had threatened to deport those who had arrived from certain Commonwealth territories or their children – whether born in the UK or who migrated with them – who arrived before 1973 if they could not prove their right to remain in the UK — however, the relevant documentation had been destroyed. It was reported in April 2018 that, based on figures provided by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, of the 57,000 Commonwealth migrants most likely to be affected, 15,000 were from Jamaica, 13,000 from India, and the other 29,000 from other countries, among which Pakistan, Kenya, and South Africa.

On 29 April 2018, Amber Rudd resigned as Home Secretary, stating in her letter of resignation that she had "inadvertently misled the Home Affairs Select Committee  on the issue of illegal immigration". The government announced later that day that her successor as Home Secretary would be Sajid Javid. 

Dawn Butler MP

Dawn Butler has been Labour MP for Brent Central since the May 2015 general election, having sat for Brent South from 2005 to 2010. In October 2016, she was appointed by Jeremy Corbyn to the new role of Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities. On 31 August 2017, Dawn was appointed as Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities.

Dawn Butler was born in Forest Gate in East London, to Jamaican immigrant parents into a large family with one sister and four brothers. She was educated in London, and worked as an officer of the GMB Union, including time as a national race and equality officer. Dawn was also an adviser to the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, on employment and social issues.

Dawn Butler was named female MP of the year at the 2009 Women in Public Life awards.  Following her appointment as Minister for Young Citizens and Youth Engagement, Dawn became the first black woman to speak from the Despatch Box in the House of Commons during question time on 9 December 2009.

From the Home Office to No 10, Theresa May has entrenched racial inequality by Dawn Butler Guardian 1.5.18

Useful links

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Betrayal of the Windrush generation

Legal action planned against the UK government on behalf of Windrush generation

Watch the 2 minutes with Leigh Day film about discrimination.

What can you do if you face race discrimination?

Our guests

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Dawn Butler

Dawn Butler has been Labour MP for Brent Central since the May 2015 general election, having sat for Brent South from 2005 to 2010.

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Our expert

Richard Meeran
Richard is a partner and head of the International department of Leigh Day.
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