The House of Commons – and social media – have been rightly brimming with outrage at the injustice of the treatment of ‘Windrush generation‘ immigrants to the UK from Jamaica as a result of Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policies.
People who have lived in the UK as citizens for decades have been deported back to Jamaica, while others have had to leave employment or have been refused NHS treatment.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd admitted she had no idea how many people had been affected – but Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes admitted deportations had occurred.
This obscene phenomenon is rightly in the news because this year is the seventieth anniversary of the arrival of the vessel Empire Windrush with almost five hundred Jamaican people who were coming to the UK because we asked them to come – the UK advertised offering cheap travel for any who wanted to come here to help fill labour shortages.
But it is not a new phenomenon – it has been underway since at least 2012, when then-Home Secretary Theresa May announced that she wanted to make the UK a “really hostile environment” for ‘illegal’ immigrants:
But that hostility was not reserved only for genuinely illegal immigrants, as these excerpts from a chilling 2013 video from the National Archives makes clear:
Made to look like an advert for tourism, the video mixes lavish depictions of the ‘richness’ of life in Jamaica and praise for the environment and people of the island with descriptions of ‘easy’ processes for obtaining documentation – against a backdrop of huge queues of people ‘taking a number’ or struggling to find a job.
It speaks condescendingly of the excitement of coming ‘home’ to the ‘warm embrace’ of family – for people who, it admits, might have been away for decades and spent only a tiny part of their lives in Jamaica – but can’t completely avoid mention of the stigma of being deported or the apprehension of arriving to an alien environment.
It talks up the help available – which a Foreign Office official obliquely admits is to help discourage deportees from trying to return to the UK – and points them to charities where they can get help or temporary meals and accommodation. Remember Max Mosley’s rightly-condemned comment about offering immigrants money to return home?
And it skates over the difficulty of finding a job – and the fact that finding one that pays enough to live off is harder still.
And all to a background of reggae music – because, well, it’s talking to Jamaicans and what Jamaican doesn’t feel better receiving bad news if there’s reggae?
Be angry – no, be furious – about the way the Tory government is treating the Windrush Generation. Just don’t think it’s something that they only just thought up.
The full Foreign Office video can be seen at the National Archives site here.
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