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'We need to make amends to the Windrush Generation'

HOPES AND DREAMS: The Windrush Generation has been let down by the current government, but now steps are being taken to ensure that these citizens are not left out any longer

A FEW weeks ago, we marked 56 years of Jamaica’s independence.

We also celebrated the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush, carrying passengers from Jamaica and across the Caribbean, answering the call to help rebuild the ‘motherland’.

We maintain close links with the Caribbean not only through those communities now living in the UK, but also through the Commonwealth.

Earlier this year, we were privileged to host the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.

That questions over the British citizenship of the Windrush Generation have arisen – particularly during this iconic year – is of deep regret to me.

Caribbean nationals took up our open invitation to help rebuild, and travelled in good faith as “citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies”, following the passing of the British Nationality Act in 1948.

The name of that first ship to bring passengers from the Caribbean was to be the marker for a whole generation of people who made an enormous contribution to the making of modern Britain.

From participating in the physical reconstruction of bombed-out buildings by filling roles in the construction industry, to taking up newly created nursing posts in the NHS – also 70 years old this year – they helped build our public services and drive our businesses.

But they also enriched our communities by contributing to the social, political and cultural make-up of the UK today.

They brought with them creativity, kindness, courage and, crucially, they brought optimism: hopes and dreams that the ‘Mother Country’, crying out for assistance as it recovered from the Second World War, would be the place where they could succeed.

Seventy years later, it’s become clear we have let some of our own citizens down. Now, we need to make amends to those people.

When Sajid Javid was appointed home secretary, he pledged to do whatever it takes to put things right – knowing that, as a second-generation migrant to parents from the Commonwealth, what has affected some of the Windrush Generation could so easily have impacted his own family.

It’s absolutely right that this government has made it a priority to deal with this issue and to compensate those affected.

This compensation scheme needs to be right and, to make sure it is fair and workable, the Home Office is asking for people to have their say.

The first step was a four week call for evidence, during which time Home Office staff received hundreds of responses. These responses informed the second step: a 12-week formal consultation, launched on July 19.

I would urge everyone to participate in this consultation – either online, via phone or post, or at one of the Home Office’s dedicated events – to ensure the creation of a comprehensive, accessible scheme. Anyone who has been affected has the right to have their say.

The consultation lasts until October 11, and the final scheme will be announced as soon as possible after that.

And of course, while this consultation is under way, the work of the Windrush taskforce to help people establish their immigration status remains ongoing. Some people from the Windrush Generation, who built a life here and made a massive contribution to our country, have been seriously let down by the immigration system. They have had their lives disrupted, and in many cases put on hold. It’s only right they now have their say on putting this right.

Helen Grant is the Conservative MP for Maidstone and The Weald.

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