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Windrush 70th celebrations will be bittersweet because of scandal, says Lammy

The Labour MP said British-Caribbeans have been left feeling like ‘second class citizens’ over the scandal.

David Lammy said the anniversary was bittersweet (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
David Lammy said the anniversary was bittersweet (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Windrush scandal has left British-Caribbeans feeling like “second class citizens” and will make celebrations marking 70 years since the generation’s beginning “bittersweet”, David Lammy has said.

The Labour MP, who has been a vocal critic of the “hostile environment” that caused members of the Windrush generation to be wrongly deported and denied access to basic rights, also renewed calls for an independent inquiry into the scandal.

He was speaking ahead of Friday’s 70th anniversary of the generation’s beginning when about 500 Caribbeans stepped off the Empire Windrush in Tilbury Docks, Essex, to join the effort to rebuild post-war Britain.

He said: “I think it’s a moment to celebrate the people who gave so much and took so little, but it is a little bittersweet.

“I think the Windrush scandal of late has left a very nasty taste in the mouth and there will be many Britons who feel sad that that has happened.”

Jamaican immigrants welcomed by RAF officials after the ex-troopship HMT Empire Windrush landed them at Tilbury (PA)

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has also called on the Government to reveal the full extent of the scandal and to publish figures on the number of people affected.

The politician, who has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, said: “Warm words about commemorating the Windrush generation are not enough. Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush the government needs to come clean about the extent of the Windrush crisis that was created on their watch as a result of the hostile environment.

“Our fellow citizens from the Windrush generation and their families have a right to know how many people have suffered at the hands of the Home Office.”

She added that it was “unacceptable and frankly scandalous” that the figures had not yet been revealed.

The cloud over the anniversary comes after it was disclosed those with a legal right to be in the UK were being deported, detained, denied healthcare, work and housing.

Among the affected were a constituent of Tottenham MP Mr Lammy, who was arrested after a meeting over his citizenship.

The 62-year-old man, known only as Oliver, was reportedly asked to clarify his immigration status with officials but was handcuffed over a denied charge of handling stolen goods 20 years ago.

“I think there’s a sense in the community that the state has chosen to treat this Windrush generation as if they are second class citizens, despite the fact that the contribution to the NHS, the contribution to our public services like British Rail and the Tube system here in London, has been immense,” Mr Lammy said.

In an interview, Mr Lammy also renewed his calls for an independent inquiry into the scandal.

“The Government have gone for a desktop inquiry led by civil servants and we don’t know the detail really of the inquiry, it’s a rubber stamp,” he said.

“In the end there are broader issues about a hostile environment, big issues about British nationals denied access to public services and a profound concern that this was a systematic attempt, effectively, to exclude a section of society and to treat them terribly.”

Instead the Prime Minister, who championed the so-called hostile environment when she was home secretary, has promised a review with “independent oversight” and “full access” to Home Office information.

Tough conditions meant some from the Windrush environment struggled to prove their right to residence. Many arrived as children and assumed their citizenship was secured automatically.



From Belfast Telegraph