Theresa May accused of ‘arrogance’ over Windrush memorial plans as campaigners demand end to hostile environment

‘A gesture in bronze and steel feels empty and meaningless’ from leader who oversaw deportations, campaigner says

Samuel Osborne
Saturday 22 June 2019 23:28
Theresa May says that the UK will always be home for the Windrush Generation

Theresa May has been accused of “arrogance” after announcing plans to create a memorial to the Windrush generation, as campaigners urged her to rip up the government’s hostile environment policies.

Up to £1m in funding has been earmarked by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for the permanent monument at London’s Waterloo station.

Karen Doyle, national organiser of Windrush pressure group Movement for Justice, told The Independent: “Memorialising the arrival and contribution of the Windrush generation is important and welcome.

“However a gesture in bronze and steel feels empty and meaningless from a government that championed the hostile environment bringing destitution, detention, deportation, exile and death to this important generation.

“It is particularly galling when there are still so many who live in fear of detention and deportation, the descendants and family members who are currently excluded from help by this government.”

Ms Doyle added: “Ripping up the hostile environment polices would be a fitting monument. Most monuments memorialise issues and people that are long dead – the injustice faced by this generation and their families is still very much alive.”

Arthur Torrington, chair of the Windrush Foundation, told The Guardian: “You can’t just bully a community and say, ‘Here is a monument’. This is the same arrogance that led to the Windrush scandal. In a sense they’re looking for another one by treating the Caribbean community like children.”

The memorial was announced on Saturday, as the country observed the first Windrush Day to mark 71 years since the arrival of the first “pioneers”.

Situated at the country’s busiest railway station, the prime minister said the monument would be seen by “millions of people from all around the world” every year.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, also criticised the hostile environment policy.

He said: “The disgraceful way the Windrush generation and their families have been treated by the government is a national scandal.

“Their experiences clearly demonstrate that the immigration process is difficult to navigate and the increasing severity of the hostile environment is putting Londoners with the right to be here at risk of destitution.”

He pledged to invest up to £370,000 to help immigrants access legal support to secure their immigration status.

Ms May said: “The Windrush generation helped lay the foundations for the country we know today, which is richer and stronger as a result of their hard work and dedication to the UK.

“This monument will be a lasting legacy to the tremendous contribution the Windrush generation and their children have made to our great country.”

Responding to Ms May’s announcement, Dawn Butler, the shadow minister for women and equalities, tweeted: “This video is an insult from the person who created the hostile environment that deported black British citizens.

“We don’t need May’s empty rhetoric. We need justice and compensation. We need May to resolve all outstanding cases and end the racist hostile environment now.”

Windrush scandal: What you need to know

On 22 June, 1948, around 500 migrants from the Caribbean arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex aboard the Empire Windrush. They had been invited by the British government to help rebuild the UK in the aftermath of the Second World War.

However, ministers and the Home Office have been criticised in recent years over revelations about how members of the Windrush generation and their children have been wrongly detained and deported, while others were denied access to healthcare, work, housing benefits and pensions.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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