Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley left for London yesterday and is expected to meet with representatives of the UK diaspora who are eager to discuss Britain’s impending deportation of thousands of West Indians who have not been naturalised in the UK.
The West Indians, including T&T nationals, known as the Windrush generation, went to Britain on the Empire Windrush cruise ship in 1948 to rebuild the UK after World War II on Britain’s invitation.
Many went with their parents, using their parent’s passports, and have lived in the UK for most of their lives. Despite being invited, the UK government is now considering deporting all those who did not get naturalised.
Reports from the UK Guardian newspaper and Chronicle Live gave detailed accounts of people who lost their jobs on the basis that they were illegal immigrants even though they were citizens of the Commonwealth.
Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling, Thomas Tugendhat, tweeted yesterday: “The news that #Windrush kids are finding it difficult to establish legal status is very serious. I look forward to @ukhomeoffice sorting this problem quickly so those who helped build our country get their rights confirmed fast.”
The editor of online publication Politics Home, Kevon Schofield, tweeted: “This is extraordinary. No10 appears to be politically tone deaf” and attached a copy of the UK Guardian article entitled —No 10 refuses Caribbean request to discuss children of Windrush.
Another UK publication, the Daily Mail centrespread screamed “What an outrage! They came in their thousands from the Caribbean to help rebuild post-war Britain. Today after decades of paying taxes, they’re being denied NHS care and even threatened with deportation. What a scandal in a country that can’t even kick out foreign criminals.”
In a Facebook post, the Office of the Prime Minister said the Prime Minister will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London which begins this week and will also speak to members of the UK diaspora. Rowley said he will engage in several meetings related to energy and security.
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young will accompany Rowley along with Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dennis Moses and Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Franklin Khan.
Minister of Finance Colm Imbert will act as Prime Minister until Rowley returns on April 24.
Commonwealth representatives of 12 Caribbean countries had hoped to raise the issue of the Windrush generation at the CHOGM meeting. However, the UK government rejected a formal diplomatic request to discuss the immigration problems.
Barbados high commissioner Guy Hewitt told the UK Guardian, “We did make a request to the CHOGM summit team for a meeting to be held between the prime minister and the Commonwealth Caribbean Heads of Government who will be here for the CHOGM and regrettably they have advised us that that is not possible.”
He said some of the affected West Indians had been denied access to healthcare, lost jobs or been made homeless because they do not have sufficient paperwork to prove they have the right to be in the UK.
The UK Guardian quoted Hewitt as saying the numbers of people coming forward to say they were affected by the immigration anomaly were “increasing exponentially”.
Satbir Singh, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said dozens of people had contacted the charity seeking help after publicity around the issue last week, the UK Guardian reported.
Since the issue was raised, a petition calling for an amnesty for anyone who arrived in the UK as a child between 1948 and 1971, has been circulating.
Activists have been requesting that the UK government lower the level of documentary proof required from people who have lived in the UK since they were children. The petition has been signed by 100,000 people in six days, triggering a possible debate in the Commons, the UK Guardian said.