Between 1948 and 1971 the UK invited immigrants from the Caribbean islands, they were promised British citizenship, however, in spring 2018 the Conservative-led government started denying them access to public services and detaining them.
A report published in December 2018 found that the Home Office had failed to protect the needs of the Windrush generation.
Sir William MacPherson described institutional racism as: “The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin.”
The Macpherson report of 1999 exposed the hidden, secret world of institutional racism within the Metropolitan police force.
After the murder of innocent black teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was brutally killed by several white youths in 1994, racial bias obstructed justice.
This kind of racism is difficult to prove, its hidden attitudes, unfair processes and secret nature mean victims have little evidence – and worst of all it is supported by the state.
That’s how in June 2018 a police sergeant for the Metropolitan police can describe a black ex-gang member, who was suffering from PTSD as an “animal” with little consequence. It is how Grenfell Tower, the Windrush scandal and the horrors of the Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre can happen and yet those affected remain powerless once newspapers deem their pain to no longer be newsworthy.
I spoke to someone who had been impacted by the Windrush scandal and how it is still impacting him to this day.
Anthony Byrne, 61, arrived in the UK from Jamaica when he was just eight years old. He, like hundreds of other people from the Caribbean, formed part of the Windrush generation, who were invited to the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and other islands.
“I can’t remember what Jamaica was like, all I can recall is the bush that we used to run into and the fruit trees, nothing else really,” Anthony tells me. “I came to the UK on a plane with my brother and when I landed over here I just remember seeing all these factories and the smoke just coming up the chimney on top.”
In 2015, Anthony decided to apply for a British passport. Given the fact he had been here since he was eight, he didn’t anticipate this would be an issue.
When the Home Office told him that he was not a legal citizen and had to apply for citizenship, he did. He was shocked when it was refused.
“The Home Office told me, even though I was of good character, I was here in the UK illegally,” he explains.
On the second attempt, Anthony applied and included family documents, such as photographs and letters dating back to when he arrived in the UK. Again his application was refused. As a result, immigration officers came and arrested him. He was sent to a detention center where he remained for three weeks.
Anthony was unfortunately part of the Home Office’s hostile environment policy, which is a set of administrative and legislative measures designed to make staying in the UK difficult.
From there, people who do not have leave to remain will be deported. The policy was introduced in 2009 by then home secretary and current Prime Minister Theresa May.
The UK government has estimated that there are between 300,000 to one million illegal immigrants in the UK at present.
Life was hard for Anthony in detention, without his family, he felt lonely, isolated and forgotten.
“Growing up I would see signs saying, ‘No blacks, No dogs, No Irish,” Anthony says. For him, this sentiment has returned.
“I was given no assistance by the UK government, they left me to rot in a detention centre, not once, but twice. I was helpless. My family have had to pay out thousands of pounds in legal fees. We are currently behind on our council tax and we are receiving bailiff letters,” Anthony explains.
“Yes, now the government has acknowledged what happened was wrong and confirmed my status but more needs to be done. Many of us are owed thousands in compensation,” he adds.
Anthony’s status was finally confirmed once his story was published in The Guardian.
“I got fed up and took my story to The Guardian,” he explains.
“What I didn’t realise was that others had also gone to the press. I found out I wasn’t alone, there were so many more.
“As a result of the story, the Home Office was forced to listen, and things suddenly changed. But what made it worse was when I found out people had been denied cancer treatment. Unbelievable,” Anthony says.
The catalyst for change came once the story was out in the public domain witht the Commonwealth heads of state meeting fast approaching. Leaders of many Caribbean countries attended and discussed their shock at what was happening with the British prime minister.
“If I hadn’t had gone to The Guardian, nothing would have been done. As a result, the Home Office started to confirm our status and thousands of others were also confirmed. If it weren’t for the Guardian story, this would still be a hidden story and a clear example of institutional racism,” Anthony tells me.