Former mayor welcomes Windrush Day - but questions government's underlying motive
A former Ipswich mayor has welcomed news of an annual Windrush Day celebration - but said it won't compensate for the treatment of those affected by the 'hostile environment' immigration policy.
Windrush Day will take place on June 22 every year, celebrating the contribution of the Windrush Generation and their descendants.
The announcement comes two months after the Prime Minister’s apology over a scandal which saw thousands who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean as children told they were here illegally and threatened with deportation because of a lack of paperwork.
Former Ipswich mayor Glen Chisholm’s biological father was prevented from attending his own brother’s funeral in Jamaica because of legal uncertainty and fears he could not return.
He welcomed an event to honour those who helped rebuild post-war Britain and shape society, but admitted feeling sceptical about the government’s motives.
“I’m really pleased it’s happening,” said Mr Chisholm.
“The Windrush Generation’s part in British history should be celebrated; their contribution to this country, and to this town, by people like Albert Grant (OBE and mayor 1995-96) and Hamil Clarke (MBE and mayor 2013-14).
“It’s right that their legacy should be celebrated – but I can’t help feeling a little cynical about the timing; that it’s to sweeten feelings after what happened.”
The government recently completed a compensation scheme ‘call for evidence’ from those who suffered financial loss proving their status. Measures included a new team to handle cases and a ‘lessons learned’ review.
Mr Chisholm said: “Individuals should be compensated at the very least – and we have look seriously at why it happened.
“Yes, we need security around immigration, but the hostile environment took things too far and pandered to the rhetoric of the far right.”
Ipswich-born Mr Chisholm was subjected racial abuse growing up, but saw attitudes change as he grew older.
Since the country voted to leave the EU, he laments seeing some attitudes change for the worse.
“The day after the Brexit vote, a fellow councillor and I came across a Portuguese woman who was crying because someone had chucked water in her face and threatened her,” he said.
“As mayor, I tried to change the way people think; to convince people of a similar background that they can be involved in civic life, and to confront the ignorance that comes from some people having no experience of sharing time with people of a different background.”
Mr Chisholm has contributed an interview sharing his experiences of growing up in Ipswich for a Windrush celebration event in August.
An annual Windrush Day will be overseen by a body of British Caribbean representatives, with up to £500,000 available to charities and communities seeking to hold events.
The announcement comes ahead of Windrush 70 activities to commemorate the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks.
Communities Minister Lord Bourne said: “A Windrush Day will allow communities up and down the country to recognise and honour the enormous contribution of those who stepped ashore at Tilbury Docks 70 years ago.”
On June 22, 1948, the Empire Windrush carried 492 passengers from the Caribbean to Tilbury Docks.
Windrush Foundation director Arthur Torrington said that, as well as helping to rebuild Britain after the Second World War, the Windrush Generation’s legacy had lived on in their children and grandchildren, and the communities they have built across the country.