How did we end up treating the Windrush generation so badly? Down to you, Theresa…


When I first heard the government was trying to deport Windrush generation immigrants who had lived almost their whole lives in Britain, I was so cross I almost tripped over my own anger.

“What sort of a country is this?” I ranted to the radio. “Have I fallen asleep and woken up in Trump’s America?”

But no, it wasn’t the Donald nightmare but the other one – the one when you wake up to find that you are living in Theresa May’s Britain. Not a place you’d want to visit if you didn’t already live here.

This disgraceful story has been brewing for a while now, thanks to relentless reporting by the Guardian and the efforts of MPs from all parties.

Earlier today, this scandal reached Parliament, where home secretary Amber Rudd announced the creation of a new team dedicated to ensuring no Windrush-era citizens would be shown the door after being classified as illegal immigrants.

During the debate, Rudd said the Home Office had become “too concerned with policy and strategy” over individuals – an observation which is both true and a remarkable bit of chutzpah.

Had she forgotten her job title for a moment? Turning against her department/herself, she said: “This is about individuals. We have seen the individual stories and some of them have been terrible.”

That’s something we can all agree on.

How about Paulette Wilson, who is 61 – a good age, but not one at which you wish to be removed from the country where you have lived for half a century and threatened with being deported to Jamaica, a country you haven’t visited for 50 years and where she you know no one, and no one knows you.

Paulette, incidentally, used to work as a cook in Parliament and has almost certainly served food to some of the heartless political zombies who thought up this horrible policy.

Paulette was placed in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre for a week and then sent to Heathrow, where a last-minute intervention by her MP brought a reprieve – but no apology from the department Amber Rudd forgot she was running.

Or perhaps Amber was thinking of Albert Thompson (63), who has lived here for 44 years, working as a mechanic, and who now has cancer and has been told that he faces a bill from the NHS for £54,000 as he doesn’t qualify for free treatment.

“I’m very angry with the government. I’m here legally, but they’re asking me to prove I’m British,” Albert Thompson (not his real name) said to the Guardian. He was also dismayed by the NHS. “It feels like they are leaving me to die.”

There are many of these stories and they are worth looking up if you wish to make yourself despair.

How did we end up in this situation? Well, that bit’s easy: it’s down to Theresa May who is obsessed with vile (and often useless) immigration policies.

This is the woman, remember, who as Home Secretary asked landlords, banks and doctors to be deputised as unwilling immigration officers and told the authorities to “deport first, ask questions later”.

Then she sent those “go home vans” around London, with billboards on the side telling illegal immigrants they weren’t wanted here. A horrible bit of political gimmickry – and farcical, too. According to the New Statesman, 11 immigrants followed the instruction on billboards so nasty even Nigel Farage expressed second doubts.

After that, in her most stupid act, May turned against foreign students – you know, the ones that come here and spend their money; the ones that are good for the universities and the economy, bunging a reported extra £20bn into the economy; the ones that hopefully return home with a good impression of Britain.

Yes, those – everyone likes those students, apart from that stubborn woman in Number 10.

Labour MP David Lammy, who secured today’s debate, asked Amber Rudd if she could “tell the House how many have been detained as prisoners in their own country, how many have been denied access to health services, how many denied pensions and lost the jobs?”

Lammy blamed the “hostile immigration environment” nurtured by Theresa May.

Too true. And this is the woman, remember, who once lamented that the Conservatives were seen by too many as the “nasty party”. She seems to have rediscovered a nostalgic fondness for that old label.

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