Government urged to ‘pay victims’ as Britain marks Windrush 75th anniversary

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The 75th anniversary of the Windrush generation who helped rebuild post-war Britain will be marked later this year as a “diamond jubilee for modern, diverse Britain”, campaigners have said.

However, activists, including Labour MP David Lammy, have called for the victims of the Windrush scandal to be compensated for financial and emotional distress they experienced at the hands of the Home Office.

Many people from the Windrush generation were denied access to the NHS, work and housing despite having a legal right to be in the UK. Some were even wrongly deported and detained in immigration centres.

The Independent revealed reports of compensation applications rejected, lower than expected offers received by claimants and activists criticising the government for marking its own homework over the scheme.

The Windrush 75 network of national organisations, including British Future charity, which aims to advance racial and cultural harmony in the UK through education, is coordinating events to celebrate the historic milestone.

Actor Sir Lenny Henry, historian David Olusoga and members of parliament from both sides of the political spectrum are among those who have spoken about why it is important to reflect on the anniversary of the first arrivals on 22 June.

Patrick Vernon, coordinator of the Windrush 75 network, said anniversary events will celebrate the “legacy” of the generation.

He said: “Windrush 75 is like a diamond jubilee for modern, diverse Britain. We are celebrating four generations of contribution, legacy, struggle and positive change.

“It is a moment to look to the future too, at how we address the challenges to come.”

Demonstrators hold placards during a protest in support of the Windrush generation in Windrush Square

Sir Lenny, who has written a play and television series to highlight the plight of the Windrush generation – which includes his mother Winifred – said he wanted to show “respect” for earlier “pioneers”.

The Rings of Power star said: “It’s vital this year to celebrate the courage of those Windrush pioneers 75 years ago, who gave up the life they knew to seek a better one here in Britain. They paved the way for those of us who have followed.

“With my one-man play August in England and upcoming TV series Three Little Birds, I want to bring their stories to wider attention in 2023. Big respect to those pioneers – we stand on their shoulders.”

Jamaican immigrants are welcomed by RAF officials after ‘Empire Windrush’ landed them at Tilbury

Historian David Olusoga said the anniversary deserves to be marked in a “significant way” because of the role the Windrush generation has played in shaping British culture.

He said: “The arrival of the Windrush is a pivotal moment in black history and British history.

“We see its legacy every day, when we turn on the radio or TV, walk down the high street or cheer for England at the World Cup.

“So, it’s important that the anniversary is marked in a significant way and that everyone is invited to take part.”

Paul Elliott, special adviser to the FA’s chair and chief executive, highlighted how several of England’s best World Cup stars come from families who migrated to the UK.

He said: “The World Cup performance of England’s footballers inspired the nation last month.

“They show why our diversity is our strength – without the parents and grandparents who moved here from overseas, there would be no Rashfords, Sakas or Bellinghams wearing the Three Lions.

“So, in 2023 football will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Windrush and the huge contribution that descendants of those first pioneers have made to our beautiful game.”

The Windrush brought about 500 immigrants to the UK on its first voyage

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said 22 June will be “an emotional day in many communities” and a “time to celebrate how migration and diversity has helped build modern Britain”.

The Labour MP added that politicians must “put pressure on the government to finally give the victims of the Windrush scandal the compensation they deserve”.

Former minister Sajid Javid said: “For many of us who owe our lives in Britain to family who travelled here from overseas, the Windrush has a special resonance.

“That generation made a deep and lasting impact on this country and the 75th anniversary is a moment to celebrate the contribution they continue to make to our economy, health service and society.”

Labour MP David Lammy said politicians must put pressure on the government to ensure Windrush victims receive the compensation they deserve

Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, reflected on the Windrush movement as the start of Britain’s post-war migration story.

He said: “2023 will be a special year for Britain, a year of identity. A Coronation year that ushers in a new era. One when we mark 75 years of pride in the NHS and 75 years of Windrush, the moment which symbolises the post-war migration that has shaped our society today.”

The Windrush generation refers to people who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries as part of a scheme to help fill post-war labour shortages.

On 22 June, 1948, the first citizens from this wave – around 500 workers from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago – arrived aboard the HMT Empire Windrush, which docked in Tilbury, Essex.