Author: Judy Griffith
Like many from the Windrush generation, my life was ruined by the Home Office. No compensation scheme can reverse that
As one of the Windrush generation who has suffered for so many years from the UK’s inhumane immigration policies, I am keen to know what will happen next. For people who haven’t been affected, the headlines are just that. But for us, this is a real trauma; this is our lives.
Sajid Javid has called for us to come forward with our personal stories so we can be assessed under his new compensation scheme. I do think that we deserve compensation. But there is no amount that can truly reflect the fear and anxiety, frustration and ill health we have suffered. It can’t fully reflect the three times I applied for and was given a job, only to be told that they were very sorry, but I couldn’t have it, because according to the government’s rules I didn’t have the right papers.
I have been here since 1963. I went to primary school here and secondary school. I worked as a healthcare supervisor, a traffic warden with Camden council and the Metropolitan police. I even had vaccination documents from the jabs I was given when I arrived here. I did jury duty three times; in fact, I was asked to do it again even while I was being told I didn’t belong in this country. I had letters sent to the Home Office on my behalf by Jeremy Corbyn. I said to him, “You must be able to help; you’re the prime minister in waiting.” But he couldn’t.
I didn’t have a day free of worry. I became ill. I could not pay my rent and was taken to court by Islington council. I am still paying back thousands in rent arrears. I lived in fear of the day when there would be a knock on the door from the police. I arranged things for my three children to carry on without me, as if I was about to die. How can Javid’s compensation reflect that? How do you calculate compensation for the hours I sat waiting to talk to someone in the Home Office? Or the fact that I couldn’t visit my mother when she was dying in Barbados? I still don’t even know where she is buried.
My parents were of a generation that truly believed that Britain was the mother country. Yet they faced terrible racism when they arrived here. They are the ones who truly suffered trying to gain a foothold. I saw it as a child, but I was shielded from it to an extent. I remember as a child people saying: “Go back, niggers! Go back to where you came from.” I think I remember seeing Enoch Powell’s rivers of blood speech on television in black and white. I didn’t really understand it, but I knew it was bad. I thought they were going to come and kill me.
I am of the generation that faced skinheads and the National Front. And now we have all this.
I have watched the debates in parliament. I welcome the fact that ministers and the prime minister have had the decency to apologise. But their apologies don’t make you feel like they are really sorry. It made me feel like it was something they had to do to save face.
Over all those years, I had no idea there were all these people like me suffering in silence. I don’t know why none of them spoke up. But for me it was shame. I was so embarrassed. I only told my children, not my friends.
I felt ashamed to be in my 60s and going through something like this. That I was almost evicted from the home I’ve lived in for 31 years. That’s the thing with black Britons of my generation. We don’t like people to know when anything is wrong. Inside you are crying, but outside you won’t show it.
I got my biometric identity card in February and when it came I was so relieved that I cried hysterically. I quickly got a job. But how do I get back all that I have lost? It will take a lot for me to trust this or any government. Our lives were torn apart. We will need so much more than words.