Windrush Day: What is the scandal and how will the 75th anniversary be marked?

Celebrations have started to mark the 75th anniversary of Windrush bringing their generation and families are still fighting for fair treatment, ITV News' Sejal Karia reports

Up and down the country, events are taking place to mark Windrush Day.

Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship carrying Caribbean families to the UK to help fill the need for more workers after the Second World War.

Many may associate it with the Windrush scandal and the ongoing political fall-out.

Here is all you need to know:

What is Windrush?

Windrush is the name of a boat that brought over people from the Caribbean who answered Britain’s call to help fill post-war work force shortages.

The HMT Empire Windrush first docked in England on June 22, 1948 at Tilbury Docks in Essex.

What is the Windrush scandal?

In April 2018 it emerged some people, who migrated legally to the UK between the late 1940s and early 1970s, were being threatened with detention and deportation, despite having the right to live here.

They were also denied access to healthcare due to paperwork issues.

Many in the Windrush generation had no record of their legal status.

This meant they were challenged by the Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy, which was supposed to target illegal migrants.

HMT Empire Windrush docked at Southampton Credit: PA

It then emerged thousands of landing card slips, recording the arrival of Windrush-era immigrants were previously destroyed by the Home Office.

Officials were forced to defend a decision to destroy the paperwork.

The Home Office apologised, Amber Rudd lost her job as home secretary and Sajid Javid was drafted in, becoming the first person from an ethnic minority background to head the Home Office.

Whose fault was it and what should have happened next?

A 2020 report put the blame on the Home Office, it said the scandal was “foreseeable and avoidable” and victims were let down by “systemic operational failings” at the department.

Campaigner Patrick Vernon said the fallout should be referred to as the Home Office scandal rather than the Windrush scandal.

Windrush campaigners including, Patrick Vernon call on Suella Braverman to implement recommendations of the Williams report. Credit: PA

The author of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, Wendy Williams, described a “culture of disbelief and carelessness” at the department which she said was “born out of a conviction that the hostile environment policy ... should be pursued at all costs”.

Ms Williams made 30 recommendations including that Home Office ministers should admit serious harm was inflicted on people who are British.

She also said those affected from the wider black African-Caribbean community should receive an “unqualified apology”.

Other recommendations included commissioning a full review and evaluation of the hostile environment policy and that the Home Office should establish an overarching strategic race advisory board.

Did all 30 recommendations go through and why is Suella Braverman involved?

Ms Williams' recommendations were accepted, but then they weren’t.

All were originally given the green light by Priti Patel when she was home secretary.

But in January 2023, Home Secretary Suella Braverman dropped three of the 30 recommendations, something Windrush campaigners called a “slap in the face”.

The three recommendations Suella Braverman dropped were:

  • Establish a migrants’ commissioner;

  • Increase powers of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration;

  • Hold reconciliation events.

Ms Braverman defended her move, telling ITV News on the eve of the Windrush 75th anniversary: “We are exposing ourselves to heightened and incredibly rigorous levels of scrutiny.

"We have an independent examiner of complaints, a body that’s been recently instituted, which is there to examine and provide checks and balances on our system.”

Were the Windrush generation compensated for what happened?

There is a compensation scheme for those affected, which was set up under Theresa May when she was prime minister.

People of all ages and nationalities, who suffered due to being unable to prove their legal right to live in the UK can claim.

Victims need to submit a form and have evidence to support their application.

Compensation starts at a minimum of £10,000 and can go up to £100,000 or more.

Has it been successful?

The latest government figures show that as of May £75m had been offered, with £62.7m of that paid out.

But the scheme has faced criticism for being complex, too slow and inefficient.

Figures published on Wednesday showed of the 2,138 claims in progress as of May, 302 (14%) had been in the system for at least 12 months, including 154 for more than 18 months.

The Home Office said it remains “absolutely committed to righting the wrongs of the Windrush scandal” but recognised there is “more to do” when it comes to the compensation scheme.

Ms Braverman said the scheme had been simplified.

She also maintained it should be kept under the Home Office remit, despite calls to have it handled independently due to a belief there remains a lack of faith in the department among victims of the scandal.

How is Windrush 75 being marked?

Events are taking place across the country including in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Bradford, Bristol, Ipswich, Edinburgh and Cardiff.

The Windrush flag is being raised in more than 200 locations including at the Houses of Parliament and the Home Office, all Network Rail stations, more than 20 hospitals and NHS sites, around 50 local authorities, and at dozens of churches, schools, universities, theatres and community organisations.

The King attended a church service in Windsor for young people, while a separate thanksgiving service will be held at Southwark Cathedral.

Earlier he said it is “crucially important” to recognise the “immeasurable” difference the Windrush generation has made to Britain.

His comments come in the foreword of a book which accompanies a display of 10 portraits of the Windrush generation which will go on public display for the first time on Thursday at the Palace of Holyroodhouse after being commissioned by Charles in 2022.

Alford Gardener (seated) who travelled to the UK on windrush during a reception at Buckingham Palace to unveil his official portrait. Credit: PA

The portraits, which were done by black artists personally selected by the King, will be displayed for two weeks on 500 billboards and 600 shopping centre screens across the UK.

Prince William also said the Windrush generation’s contributions to Britain “cannot be overstated” in a video posted on social media.

A day-long programme of events is taking place at the Port of Tilbury in Essex, where Windrush first arrived.

This includes a dawn chorus performed by schoolchildren and a steel pan band welcoming 100 NHS workers and 100 people with Windrush connections who are due to arrive by Thames Clipper in the afternoon.

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