Bridget Phillipson MP: Why we should recognise the positive impact of Windrush generation

Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture: PA.
Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture: PA.

In recent weeks, people up and down the country have been rightly shocked to learn of the callous treatment received by the Windrush generation.

These were people who came from the Caribbean at the invitation of the British Government following the Second World War, to help rebuild the UK after years of conflict.

Since then, they have continued to make an enormous contribution to our society and vital public services.

That’s why the stories of those who have been denied medical treatment or threatened with deportation have been so disturbing to hear.

Despite living and working in the UK for years, paying taxes, and calling our country their home, many have been treated as second-class citizens.

What makes these tales of injustice worse is the fact that the government was warned that this would be the likely result of the ‘hostile environment’ policy introduced by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary.

Ministers themselves knew these changes were likely to affect the Windrush generation, many of whom have never had to prove their status – yet they ploughed on regardless.

It is only after weeks of growing public outrage that the Prime Minister has finally apologised for the distress caused. Even then, she has failed to accept that this sorry saga was not due to an administrative error, but was the result of her own decisions.

While the government must now be held to account on its promises to support those affected, it also needs to be clear about the road ahead.

Such a task is pressing in the wake of the EU referendum, as European citizens living in the UK look at the treatment of the Windrush generation with growing concern.

We need an immigration system that is fair, humane and treats people with respect – rather than with hostility and suspicion.

We should also recognise the positive impact made by those who have made this country their home.

From the doctors and nurses working in our NHS, to the international students who study here for a short time yet make such a valuable contribution to the life and economy of our city.

Our region, and country as a whole, is a fundamentally decent and welcoming place.

The contribution of migrants has helped to drive our economy and vital public services over many, many decades.

It is perfectly possible for government to balance controls on migration that are in keeping with our values and traditions – and that is now the test for ministers.”