What is Windrush Day and why do we mark it?

Credit: PA

Monday 22 June marks the third Windrush Day, the 72nd anniversary of the SS Empire Windrush arriving at Tilbury Docks in Essex carrying the first Caribbean migrants.

Many of those who left were ex-servicemen who fought with the UK in the Second World War and had been invited to a bomb-damaged Britain to fill labour shortages.

Windrush Day was established as a celebration to honour the enormous contribution those who made that journey - and others who followed from elsewhere - have made to Britain.

In June 1948, the SS Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury Dock in Essex Credit: PA

The annual event was established in 2018 in the wake of the Windrush scandal when many of those invited to Britain suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of immigration laws that, unbeknown to them, had changed around them.

Two years on from the inaugural Windrush Day, their fight for justice continues.

Jamaican immigrants welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office after HMT 'Empire Windrush' landed them at Tilbury. Credit: PA

The Prince of Wales has spoken of the "debt of gratitude" the nation owes the Windrush generation as he heralded Britain's diversity as its "greatest strength".

In a video message marking Windrush Day, Charles urged people to listen to each other's stories and to learn from one another as he paid tribute to the country's Caribbean community for their contribution to life in the UK.

The heir to the throne said: "The diversity of our society is its greatest strength and gives us so much to celebrate."

  • How is Wales celebrating?

With social distancing restrictions in place amid the coronavirus outbreak, commemorations have gone virtual.

Race Council Cymru held a video conference bringing together people from across the country to celebrate the contribution of the Windrush generation in Wales.

Uzo Iwobi OBE, Specialist Adviser on Equalities to the Welsh Government, said: "It's so important that this event is marked in Welsh calendar, in Welsh history, because we're saying for a long time that people did not take into account the contributions of Windrush elders into Welsh society."

  • Who are the Windrush generation?

Vernesta Cyril arrived from St Lucia in 1962 and settled in Newport. Credit:

HMT Windrush brought the first post-war migrants from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean islands, then British colonies, to the UK in 1948.

There were just over 1,000 passengers on board that first sailing.

Over a 23-year period, an estimated half a million people made the 8,000 mile journey from Caribbean islands, encouraged to the UK to help rebuild a Britain battered by war.

Many arrived as children, travelling on their parents’ passports and with no documents of their own.

Decades later, many found themselves unable to prove they had the right to work, or in some cases even live, in the country they had called home for 50 years.

  • What is the Windrush scandal?

Adult Windrush immigrants from the 1960s and early 1970s were usually given permanent right to reside stamps when they arrived on UK shores.

The 1971 Immigration Act confirmed that the Windrush generation had, and have, the right to live in the UK.

But they were not given any documents to demonstrate their status and the Home Office did not keep a record of those granted leave to remain.

Immigration law in the UK now requires people to have documentation to work, rent a property or access benefits and NHS services, which left many of this generation in a perilous situation.

People with a right to live in the UK found themselves with no papers and no rights. As a result, some lost their jobs, their homes, and, according to a report into the scandal published earlier this year, “their sense of identity and wellbeing”.

The Home Office said 164 people were wrongfully detained or deported from the country that had been their home for decades.

Rome came from Antigua when she was 15-years-old. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

''We will always celebrate the Windrush elders''

While it is recognised the hostility and rejection environment impacted a generation, many feel the fight continues.

Roma Taylor came to Tiger Bay from Antigua when she was 15-years-old. She's lived in Cardiff her whole life - as a nurse, a mother of 7 children, and a foster carer for 20 children - contributions of a generation she believes should always be celebrated.

Vernesta Cyril, who came to live in the UK in 1962, and worked as a midwife for 40 years, said celebrations bring mixed emotions.

''It's nice to be acknowledged for the years you've been here and you've given so much service. But it brings back traumatic experiences. People would see you and it's like oh yes, all these immigrants come over ya know, i mean we had British passports but you had to identify yourself then to be British.''

Campaigners continue to seek justice for Windrush generation victims Credit: PA

In her independent review from March, Windrush Lessons Learned Review, Wendy Williams said they were “failed when they needed help most”.

The Windrush Lessons Learned Review was ordered and a compensation scheme launched in July 2018 at an estimated cost of at least £200 million.

In March, Home Secretary Priti Patel told the House of Commons more than 11,700 people have been given “some form of documentation”, since 2018.

Official figures published last month revealed fewer than 5% of claims made under a compensation scheme for victims have been paid out.

The most recent figures show the Home Office has paid out £362,996 to just 60 people.

Some 1,275 claims were made by the end of March, with the number received by the department decreasing each quarter since it launched.

The Home Office has acknowledged “more needed to be done” regarding the compensations scheme and said it was working with community leaders “so that all those affected can get the compensation they deserve, as quickly as possible”.

Campaigners last week delivered a petition to Downing Street signed by more than 130,000 people calling for action to address failings which led to the scandal.

The document also demands swift compensation payments for victims.

The Welsh Government said it is "privileged" to have so many Commonwealth citizens as part of our community, and "we want you to know how much we value, respect and celebrate the contributions of Windrush and Commonwealth migrants to Wales."

It added: "A great injustice was done to Commonwealth citizens who were made to feel like they were not British. We are continuing to urge the UK Government to do more to ensure Commonwealth citizens have proper documentation and receive compensation where it is due."