UK News

‘Bittersweet' Windrush 75th anniversary marked

The Empire Windrush, pictured here docked at Southampton, brought people from the Caribbean to Britain in 1948 (PA)
Aine Fox, PA Social Affairs Correspondent

Commemorations and celebrations are taking place across the country to mark what has been described as a “bittersweet” 75th Windrush anniversary.

The King will attend a service for young people in Windsor, a carnival procession will take place in Brixton where many of the Caribbean community settled, and the Windrush flag will be flown in locations including at the Houses of Parliament.

A commemorative service will also take place at London’s Southwark Cathedral on Thursday, while events will be held at the Port of Tilbury where the Empire Windrush ship – the first to carry workers from the Caribbean who had answered Britain’s call to help fill post-war labour shortages – docked on June 22 1948.

Patrick Vernon, convenor of the Windrush 75 network, said the events are a chance to “celebrate the diversity of modern Britain” and to “acknowledge the legacy of those first Windrush pioneers, the challenges they overcame and the contribution they made to Britain”.

But he said it is a “bittersweet moment, tainted by the injustice of the Windrush scandal”.

In 2018, it came to light that many British citizens, mostly from the Caribbean, had been threatened with detention and deportation despite having the right to live in the UK.

Many in the Windrush generation, who arrived from the Caribbean between the late 1940s and 1970s, had no record of their status and found it challenged under the Home Office’s so-called “hostile environment” policy which was supposed to target illegal migrants.

Windrush passengers: most common professions
(PA Graphics)

It also emerged that thousands of landing card slips recording the arrival of Windrush-era immigrants were previously destroyed by the Home Office.

Then-home secretary Amber Rudd apologised in 2018 to members of the Windrush generation, and a scathing report published in 2020 found the scandal to have been “foreseeable and avoidable” and that victims were let down by “systemic operational failings” at the Home Office.

Despite setting up a compensation scheme for those affected by the scandal, the department has continued to face criticism for its handling of the situation – accused of being slow and inefficient.

But the Home Office has insisted it is “absolutely committed to righting the wrongs of the Windrush scandal”.

Windrush compensation claims in progress for over a year
(PA Graphics)

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been criticised for dropping three of 30 recommendations from the 2020 report, but said her department is “exposing ourselves to heightened and incredibly rigorous levels of scrutiny”.

She rejected calls for the scheme to be moved to an independent body, telling ITV News that it is “right that the Home Office maintain ownership over the scheme because to do otherwise would cause delay and needless bureaucracy”.

The latest Government figures for May show £75.0 million had been offered under the compensation scheme, with £62.7 million of that paid out.

But hundreds of people have been in the system awaiting a claim outcome for at least a year.

Lee Rowley, communities minister at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said: “Today is a celebration of the Windrush generation and the wider Caribbean community’s contribution to British society.

“The events taking place today and all this week are a chance to reflect upon and recognise those who have done so much to strengthen the life of our nation.”

The Brixton procession is one of 45 community projects the department said had been funded by the £750,000 Windrush Day Grant Scheme including cricket matches at the Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club.