Seventy years ago to the day, June 22, 1948, the Empire Windrush passenger liner docked at Tilbury in England. Aboard were over 1,000 Black passengers from across Britain's then Colonies in the English-speaking Caribbean, who were encouraged to migrate and help rebuild the land of her majesty after it was devastated following World War II. Thousands more would make the journey between 1948 and 1971.
UK Gov't Plans Windrush Anniversary Celebration Amid Criticism
They became known as the Windrush Generation and today, the 70th anniversary of the Windrush's docking is to be dedicated to them and their vast contribution to British society, particularly its National Health Care, or NHS, services.
Confronted by structural racism and day-to-day discrimination, the Windrush Generation would persevere, filling vacancies in the NHS, construction, public transportation, postal service and other vital sectors, many also became entrepreneurs.
In fact, the first wave of Windrush immigrants began a more than two-decade-long process which helped Britain become a more diverse and vibrant society.
The United Kingdom, however, has less to celebrate, much more to answer for and be ashamed of when it comes to the mistreatment of the aging Windrush Generation and their descendants.
Classified as illegal immigrants, denied essential public services such as healthcare, their arrival cards intentionally destroyed and subject to deportations, the Windrush Generation, their descendants and supporters are not jumping for joy on this anniversary.
"One of the uglier manifestations of whiteness in this society is an unassailable sense of in-your-face entitlement," wrote noted activist, professor, and writer Gus John.
His letter, which was addressed to British Prime Minister Theresa May after she invited him to attend the official Windrush Day celebrations, went on to say that “it would be a shameful betrayal to them all (the Windrush Generation) to accept your invitation.”
Speaking about the arrival card database destruction, Sir Bob Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, said some government ministers described May's tenure at the Home Office as being “almost reminiscent of Nazi Germany.”
In March, Dexter Bristol, 57, who was born a "British subject" in Grenada and moved to Britain in 1968 when he was just eight –suddenly died after being classified as an illegal immigrant and being fired from his cleaning job last year.
His mother, Sentina Bristol, believes the stress caused by not being able to find employment due to immigration status, as well as being denied benefits and medical care, were directly responsible for his death.
"I think Theresa May should resign," Sentina said. "This situation has to be amended. My son is British. We didn't come here illegally."
Public awareness of awful cases such as Bristol's led to a petition demanding amnesty for anyone who arrived in Britain as a minor between 1948 and 1971, gathering almost 180,000 signatures and the political scandal led to the resignation of the then interior minister Amber Rudd.
Diane Abbott, Britain's shadow home secretary, wrote “Warm words about commemorating the Windrush generation are not enough... Whilst the government celebrates the contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants, we still do not know how many of our fellow citizens have been hounded out of their country, detained in immigration detention centers and left jobless and destitute.”
She went on to ask Sajid Javid, the current home secretary, to provide the exact number of Windrush people who were wrongly deported or, faced with threats of removal, forced into “voluntary” deportations, according to The Guardian. She also requested an official count of the number people denied re-entry and banned from returning after leaving Britain.
Two months ago, Britain apologized for its "appalling" treatment of thousands of people of the Windrush generation who were denied fundamental rights after a tightening of immigration policy, despite having lived in Britain for decades.
"The fact that Britain had always been their home makes the treatment that some members of the Windrush generation experienced in recent years so very wrong," said Prime Minister Theresa May in a statement marking the anniversary.
The statements from May and others have, however, done little to correct the wrongs committed against the passengers who were aboard the Windrush and those that followed after them. The story of the Windrush Generation is a poignant reminder of Britain's colonial legacy, a legacy which should not be forgotten by the citizens of their former colonies in the Caribbean or anyone.