by New Worker correspondent
HUNDREDS of protesters gathered in Whitehall, opposite Downing Street, last Saturday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May and the repeal of the 2014 Immigration and Asylum Act that was the main cause of the “hostile environment” to immigrants and the Windrush catastrophe.
May has apologised in Parliament for the outrageous deportations, threats of deportation and denial of jobs, housing, NHS care and other services to elderly people who came to Britain from the West Indies as children with their parents in the 1950s, ‘60s and early ‘70s by invitation to help post-war reconstruction here.
They came as British subjects, before their home islands were given independence. When Jamaica and the other islands were made independent a law was passed in the early 1970s granting people who had come from the West Indies full rights to continue living and working here without limitation.
But the 2014 Act, drawn up by May as Home Secretary at the time, took away those rights and made it conditional on these people having full documentation for every year they had lived and worked here – after she, in 2010, had ordered the shredding of archived landing passes that could have proved every one of these people came here legally.
But in spite of May’s apologies the Act is still being used to threaten more of the Windrush generation with the loss of their right to stay here. May claims to have set up a task force to put things right but this seems to consist of help and guidance for these people to be able to obtain the right identification documentation to comply with the Act – and it will cost them heavily. The hostile environment to immigrants remains very much in place.
Furthermore, last week May ordered her MPs to vote down a parliamentary motion to reveal all the documents connected to the Act and its implementation.
Protesters chanted for the repeal of the Act and for May to be deported, and for an immediate end to deportations and detention of Commonwealth citizens. They also demanded that compensation be awarded to those who had been deported, threatened with deportation or detained, and those who lost housing, jobs, benefits and were denied NHS treatment because of the Government's policy.
The Windrush caseload last week hit 3,000 and is increasing daily.
Speaking on Saturday, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: "Comrades, I’m here to show my solidarity with the Windrush generation. And say how pleased I am that I was the first person to call for [former Home Secretary] Amber Rudd’s resignation. And then she resigned.
"And you know why she had to resign, not because of what she said in a committee but because somebody had to take responsibility for what was done to the Windrush generation. And it happened on her watch.
“I am not under any illusion, when it comes to the Windrush scandal all roads lead back to Theresa May."
She added: "The Windrush scandal doesn’t end here. We need to know how many people were deported, we know to know how many were detained. We need to know how many weren’t allowed to come back into this country.
“But above all, we have to continue fighting for fairness and humane treatment of migrants.”
In the crowd, Yvonne Williams, 58, who was released from Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre just last week, said she was “screaming” with joy.
Ms Williams’ mother was part of the Windrush generation and came to the UK from Jamaica. Ms Williams said she joined her mother in Britain in 2001 after her grandmother died in Jamaica.
She said her applications to stay were repeatedly refused by the Home Office and that despite her release she is still concerned about what her future holds.
Describing her eight months in detention, Ms Williams said it was “torture” and that it left people “traumatised”.
“It is very hard, every day you’re thinking, oh, they’re going to come and take me,” she said.
Weyman Bennett, joint general secretary of Unite Against Fascism and Stand Up To Racism – the organisers of the protest – also spoke. His family travelled from Jamaica between 1958 and 1966. His mother worked in the NHS and his father joined the British Army.
“Amber Rudd took the blame, but I believe that Theresa May is responsible for it, and she should go,” he said. “I hope she is held accountable for what she did, because the people’s voices have to be heard."