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Windrush

By Bumpy Walker

 

Jamaicans have always emigrated. The population of modern Jamaica is principally based on DNA sharing by immigrants, forced and otherwise. The first recorded Jamaican migrant in the post Columbian era was probably a lady found in a canoe heading for the Yucatan Peninsula who was picked up by the Cortez fleet on their way to spread mayhem and murder to the Mexican empire. [1]  Yassi, the last Spanish Governor of Jamaica convinced a few local maroons to take a boat and ferry him to Cuba from whence they were never heard of again. [2]

Ambitious cohorts of Jamaica’s proletariat have headed to Central America, Cuba, US, Ethiopia and Canada seeking a better tomorrow.   It was only after World War II that   the homeland of the colonial overlords, the United Kingdom, began to be seen as a target destination by this ambitious cohort.  Since then they have refined the metropole’s society, changed the language, improved the cuisine, shared their DNA and procreated multiple generations.  After Independence this migration destination was shut, except to families of landed Jamaicans.  These early migrants are now called “the Windrush Generation”.

In recent weeks it’s become public knowledge that significant numbers of multiple generations of Jamaicans  who have  lived in the UK are not considered legally settled.  The sad thing is that this was known.  I seem to recall in the hazy past that The Gleaner owned UK based The Voice newspaper did run a campaign for Jamaicans of the “Windrush generation” to regularise their status.

A Hostile Environment

In 2012 the then British Home Secretary and now Prime Minister, Teresa May, was vividly clear according to the Telegraph[3] on this subject.  With words chosen with “feline delicacy” she set out to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants.  Her target audience was probably the significant minority of working class Labour Party voters who are anti-immigrant.  This group, mainly based in the former industrial / manufacturing English heartlands, have been essentially marginalised by the evolution of British society since the 1980’s. While this sentiment is studiously ignored by the British Labour Party, Ms May’s Conservatives sought to appeal to it.

The now Prime Minister’s words  were  chosen with delicacy, calibrated carefully so as  to ensure that that there would be no blowback from any  EU institution accusing the British Government of breaking the rules on the free movement EU citizens.   As EU migrants are not in the UK illegally, the policy was as precisely targeted as a smart missile strike.  The intent was to focus on non EU migrant, the visible “others”, and those with high melanin in their skin.

 It is not strange that a country’s leader should deliberately create an environment to force a visible minority to “self deport”.    History is filled with great leaders who deliberately did this to people with whom they disagreed or viewed as inferior.   The late great leftist hero, Fidel Castro created a hostile environment for his opponents, thereby providing them with an incentive to leave, flinging open the airport gates for them to go to Miami. Liberal icon, President of the United States Franklin Roosevelt encouraged Japanese Yankees  to “self deport” by creating a deliberately hostile environment (Renunciation Act of 1944).[4] In the 19th centuries Native Yankees were characterised as “ hostile” by various US  governments  who sort to take their environment, instituted a scorched earth policy, encouraging them to “self deport” to concentration camp like reservations by the use of lawful treaties   (a few chose Canada). Jamaica’s own Michael Manley channelled his inner Fidel in “his five flights to Miami” speech to create a hostile environment!

As secular saints do,   so did many European governments in post Nazi-colonial era Europe.  Then the new post-colonial governments mass deported or force the German minorities to self deport by creation of a hostile environment.   

What the British Government has been doing is taking a comprehensive approach to target long term residents making them into “illegals” despite having been resident in some cases for multiple generations.  Thus health services, social services, even education, are available only on presenting proof of residency.  Thankfully many in the civil service have been bending these rules.  But ordinary people are being forced to become immigration controllers; essentially  everyone to “tun  informa” .  

It is not quite the Wannsee Conference[5], more the attitude that emerged in Germany after the 1933 election. Then, as now, an apolitical civil service instituted political imperatives by becoming a hostile, unhelpful bureaucracy seeking to exclude a minority by demanding obtuse and obscure evidence.  The emphasis is that the individual has to prove they are regularised, not the state needing to confirm their illegality.  Basic Common Law and social decency was tuned out. The British State went further, destroying part of their records, thus if one produced their own copy of the paperwork the smug but honest reply could be “Sorry we have no record of you in our system.”  The adjective Kafkaesque should be changed to Ruddesque or Mayesque.

To date the British Government has yet to drive the Windrush into the sea by means of the army, but cannot quantify how many people were deported or self-deported due to its deliberate policies.  To expect morals from a government which in the past honoured Governor Eyrie is expecting too much! The British Government’s attitude towards An San Su Kyyi now seems a tad smug[6]

It is strange to see both the left and right wing newspapers finding common ground in expressing outrage and spouting vitriol about the identical policy.  Right wing commentators try to dress this up as an unfair, unexpected consequence of a sound policy.   They attempt to separate the issue of ethnicity from immigration while ignoring the basic xenophobia therein.  Most left winger seem focused on demanding resignation and reverting to smugness.

Michael Gove, a Conservative Minister, accused the Labour Party of weaponizing this issue;  with some justification. It was the Labour Government’s Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, who coined the phrase “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants[i].  It was during his tenure that the decision to destroy the landing cards was made. [7]  Now he is calling for identity cards.  Wont the identical standard of proof be required? 

There is sufficient outrage to go round! Prime Minister Andrew Holness may pander to populist sentiment before a Jamaican crowd in London and state that if you have Jamaican ancestry that makes you a Jamaican.    However, a second generation Jamaican who took part in a Channel 4 news live programme testified that the Jamaican Government did not recognize her child as a Jamaican when she arrived in Jamaica after self-deporting[8].  The British Labour Party may mouth all the appropriate platitudes, but during the Blair and Brown governments of the 90s and 00’s they did not walk back any of the legislation that have been used to criminalise Jamaican-British residents. 

It is almost a tragi-comedy if one had not witnessed friends investing substantial amounts of money to regularise their status and that of their children as well scouring boxes trying to find the obscure, outdated, mould damaged paperwork required.  Even British Civil Servants are not immune to the repercussions of this attitude.  A former British High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago had a child while he was at his post. His child was initially denied a British passport![9]  What this demonstrates is the default position of the British Government is to deny citizenship in all cases. This is a deliberate policy.

The Runaway Train of Events      

Resignations will take place.  Politicians and Civil servants will pass the blame back and forth like a hot potato, hoping it will drop from the news cycle. This issue has grown legs and by the time this piece is uploaded the entire narrative will have generated a whole new swath of scandal.  Prime Minister May says that they all will get citizenships or have their right to stay, even mentioning compensation.  Yet a road map of the whom, the when or the how has not been defined.  The cases that were highlighted by the media will be quickly settled; but what of those who kept their head down trying to avoid attention? 

One thing that has been ignored: Since the eighties members the “ Windrush generation” were deported after completing prison sentences.  If citizenship is bestowed on this group in general then a number of British citizens were deported illegally.  What if they then committed crimes in the countries to which they were deported?

 



[1]  A History of New Spain : Diaz

[2] The Iron Thorn and The Fighting Maroons of Jamaica: Carey Robinson

[3] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/9291483/Theresa-May-interview-Were-going-to-give-illegal-migrants-a-really-hostile-reception.html

[4] http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Denaturalization Act of 1944/Public Law 78-405/

[5] https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005477

[6] https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/theresa-may-suu-kyi_uk_59c17ee7e4b0f22c4a8d5c4a

[7] https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6114549/emily-thornberry-admits-labour-were-first-to-suggest-hostile-environment-for-immigrants-as-she-wades-into-windrush-row/

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izsLi-FB5Fg

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/25/arthur-snell-high-commissioner-baby-denied-uk-passport-2011



 


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