(CNS): The UK government has officially sanctioned 22 June as Windrush Day and has set aside a £0.5 million annual grant to fund anniversary celebrations this year and in future. In a statement about the 70-year anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush, which triggered the wave of immigration from this region to help the post-war rebuilding efforts, the current overseas territories minister, Lord Ahmad, who also has responsibility for the Caribbean, has spoken about the “invaluable contribution the Windrush generation has made to British society ever since”.
Despite continued criticisms about the Home Office’s treatment of thousands of Caribbean-born long-term UK residents who have been labelled as illegal immigrants, the British government is hoping the troubles will not overshadow the anniversary celebrations.
“The Caribbean diaspora in the UK symbolises the indelible bonds between our two sets of islands,” Lord Ahmad said, as he pointed to the importance of the Windrush Generation, who worked in Britain’s essential industries, including public transport, the post office, construction and the armed forces, and how central they were to the National Health Service and now many are leaders in the community.
“Today their children are civil servants, healthcare workers, business owners, professionals, and leading lights in music, sport and film. They are key to Britain’s success,” the Conservative minister said. “I doubt that there is a corner of Britain that has not been inspired and enriched by the Windrush Generation and their descendants.”
Lord Ahmad, who is the child of Pakistani immigrants, spoke of Britain’s first black MPs entering Parliament and campaigning for all Britons to have an equal stake in society.
“The pioneering Caribbean racial and social justice campaigners who pushed for legislative and social change calling for a fairer Britain. And let’s not forget the power of our sporting and cultural heroes, who through their skill, talent and discipline used their gifts to make an indelible mark to help create a proud, united and multicultural Britain,” he said, adding that Britain’s contemporary diversity began with the men, women and children who made the one-month journey from the Caribbean.
“The fortitude shown as they overcame daunting challenges and built successful lives and businesses for themselves and their families has come to represent a strength in spirit that we continue to see today,” he added. “We all know that the Windrush generation have faced further challenges, with questions raised over their immigration status. The government have taken focused action to assist anyone who may be affected to put right this wrong,” Lord Ahmad said, as he acknowledged the continuing concerns about this issue.
The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, has called on the Conservative government to reveal the full extent of the crisis and to provide swift responses to a series of key questions that remain unanswered.
“Warm words about commemorating the Windrush generation are not enough,” she wrote in a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid. “Whilst the government celebrates the contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants, we still do not know how many of our fellow citizens have been hounded out of their country, detained in immigration detention centres and left jobless and destitute.”