A wave of anger at the Tories’ racist treatment of the Windrush Generation of migrants has forced Theresa May and Amber Rudd onto the back foot.
The home secretary announced on Monday that migrants who came from Britain’s Caribbean colonies between 1948 and 1973 would be allowed to apply for citizenship.
They had faced the threat of deportation or loss of livelihood. Now some of the hoops migrants are made to jump through, such as citizenship tests, will be waived.
But the Windrush scandal is not over—and nor are the Tories’ troubles.
The amnesty doesn’t include Caribbean migrants who came after 1973 who still face uncertainty (see below). And pressure is already mounting for it to include migrants who came from other parts of the British Empire such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
But the Tories are in a bind because the Windrush scandal has shone a light on Britain’s racist immigration laws.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott slammed the Tories’ hollow words at an 800-strong Stand Up To Racism rally in Brixton, south London, last Friday. “They should not be apologising, because you only apologise when you make a mistake,” she said.
“They knew what they were doing with their ‘hostile environment’.”
As home secretary May promised to create a “hostile environment” for migrants. Her Immigration Act 2014 turned public sector workers and landlords into border guards.
Former special adviser Polly McKenzie said last week that “right from the start, Theresa May’s mission was to make it systematically difficult to get by without papers.”
And Rudd made clear on Monday that the Tories have no intention of letting up their racist assault.
Rudd claimed that “steps intended to combat illegal migration have had an unintended and sometimes devastating impact”. Yet she warned the Tories were committed to “enforce the immigration rules”.
The Windrush affair shows the racist brutality of the Tory government and the British immigration system. Each must be fought in their entirety.
The rally in Brixton showed the anger that exists against the Tories’ racism. Chants of “Amber Rudd, resign” and “Theresa May, resign” rang out. They should both go now—along with the rest of the racist Tory rabble.
Anti-racists must harness the anger over Windrush into a mass movement that fights for the right of all migrants and refugees to come to Britain and stay as long as they want.
Windrush Generation amnesty debate protest called by SUTR. Monday 30 April, 4pm-7pm, Parliament Square, London
Stop Tories splitting movement against racist immigration laws
The right wing press has hypocritically seized on the Windrush scandal because it allows them to push the narrative of “good migrants” vs “bad migrants”.
Guardian journalist Gary Younge spoke at the SUTR rally in Brixton.
“I have a concern that the Windrush Generation is the new ‘national treasure’ and that we will be separated as the worthy immigrants,” he said.
“That suggests there are unworthy immigrants for whom this hostility is okay.
“We need to stand with the Windrush Generation, but also make sure that nobody has illusions that it stops with them.”
Another sign of the Tories’ real aim to cut long-term immigration and divide workplaces came a few days before their retreats over the Windrush Generation.
The government launched a new scheme to bring Jamaican nurses to Britain. But under the “earn, learn and return” plan the nurses must leave Britain after three years. Some in the Labour Party have also fallen into this dangerous trap of good vs bad migrants.
The Immigration Act 2014 enshrined the Tories’ racist “hostile environment” in law by compelling public sector workers and landlords to check passports.
And it enabled the deportation of Commonwealth citizens.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry defended turning workers into border guards on the BBC Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
“I do not have a problem with checks,” she said, “it is right that we should have rules and that they should be enforced. And it should be done fairly and fast and it should be firm.”
Disgracefully, along with the majority of Labour MPs, Thornberry abstained on the 2014 Act. Only seven Labour MPs voted against it—including Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and David Lammy.
Jeremy Corbyn, who strongly opposed the bill, did not vote because he was the teller for those against the Bill.
On Sunday McDonnell said a Labour government would bring in “a sensible system that operates fairly” and was “reasonable”.
But that system still includes scrapping freedom of movement for EU migrants.
Migrants are at risk of automatic deportations
The Windrush scandal has highlighted the racist treatment of migrants from Britain’s former colonies.
The scandal goes deeper than those who came after the Second World War.
Winston, a pensioner who came from Jamaica in 1990, has been detained four times and faces the threat of deportation.
“They took my free travel pass from me,” he told Socialist Worker. “I have to pay for my medication for glaucoma.
“And they say you’re not supposed to work so I’m staying with friends because I can’t afford anywhere else.
“It’s terrible—I want my life back”.
Winston’s is just one example of how the Tories’ hostile environment makes life difficult for migrants. “I was detained for about four months,” said Winston.
“I just came out on 2 February after being in the Verne and Brook House detention centres.
“The Verne is like a prison, they treat you like a murderer, a criminal, they don’t care about humanity.”
Winston was previously sent to prison for having marijuana, and because he was sent down for over 12 months, it meant he qualified for an automatic deportation.
After losing his judicial review this month, Winston is facing uncertainty because of Britain’s racist immigration laws.
Event defies Powell’s hatred
Anti-racists in Birmingham rallied on the 50th anniversary of Tory MP Enoch Powell’s racist “Rivers of Blood” speech last Friday.
The Rivers of Love event was organised by SUTR and the West Midlands TUC union federation.
It was held in the same room in the Macdonald Burlington Hotel where Powell made the speech.
Eleanor Smith, a black woman Labour MP, took Powell’s old Wolverhampton seat at the general election last June.
“Fifty years ago Enoch Powell was in this room making that pernicious, racist speech,” she told the meeting.
“A speech that he hoped would divide a nation, a speech that he hoped would send messages out to say, ‘We don’t want you’.
“His message may have been heard—and may have been seen on telly—but look at it now.
“Because now we are here in the same room and I’m speaking on behalf of a Wolverhampton constituency, the very one he was an MP for.”
The event was a celebration of multiculturalism—but it was also about building the fight against the Tories’ racism today.
Unison union assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie urged people to build a mass movement to transform society.
“If we don’t build a united movement that stands against racism and is for that better society we have learned nothing,” he said.
Sabby Dhalu, theco-convenor of SUTR, said there was a danger of “creeping Powelism at top layers of politics”.
She added, “Powell’s speech sparked a furious debate in the government, with people threatening to resign if he was not sacked.
“But today his politics live on in the prime minister and home secretary.”