With the inquest into the death of a Windrush scandal migrant taking place, we are once again reminded of Britains’ somewhat brutal approach to immigration and that this continues to be a problem.
Dexter Bristol was a 58-year-old Grenadian man who came to the UK when he was only 8 years old. He died after what his family felt was 18 months of unbelievable stress imposed by the Home Office. Although the coroner agreed that his application to remain in the UK was a “stressor”, he believed that other stress including being anxious regarding his relationship with his mother played a part, so he ruled that Dexter Bristol died of natural causes.
Two years before he passed away Bristol refused to make use of the National Health Service for fear of the system targeting him.
Many health practitioners have expressed concerns regarding these issues since the start of charges for immigrants., which was highlighted with the news regarding an Ethiopian asylum seeker who was refused chemotherapy when she was found to be ineligible for free care by the Home Office and the NHS.
It is believed she passed away last month at the age of 39. It is felt that there are many more cases similar to those which have yet to come to light. These frequent series of immigration scandals would appear to indicate we have an enormous ideological problem, rather than a temporary one.
Although it is thought that the Windrush Scandal was dealt with a couple of years ago, it has become apparent that failings and problems are still being discovered and migrants and refugees from other parts of the world are still facing an unrelenting hostile environment.
It is felt that Theresa May’s infamous words in 2012 “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration” highlighted the UK’s brutal approach to immigration and that this is still an ongoing historical problem, and is an extension of the reaction immigration elicits in Brits.
Despite extending an invitation to citizens of the Commonwealth, over 50 years ago, continuing frustrations pushed the Tory government to make a hasty and somewhat cruel provision to restrict the influx of immigration to the UK.
The 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act
In 1962 the Commonwealth Immigrants Act sought to restrict the number of Commonwealth citizens entering the UK by only allowing those with government-issued work permits to enter, with the exception of Windrush immigrants, who were granted settlement status under the act, provided they had the documentation to prove it.
A former Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, referred to the repetition of the Commonwealth Act as a “cruel and brutal anti-colour legislation”. Also, Claudia Jones, a communist activist, pioneering newspaper editor and one of the original founders of the Notting Hill Carnival, said the act was an intentional attempt to restrict the flow of people of colour to the UK from British colonies, which was encouraged after the second World War.
In an article for her West Indian Gazette newspaper, in November 1961, Jones is believed to have written – “The gauntlet is down, the Tory gloved hands which held it palmed a Colour Ban Bill to restrict immigration of coloured citizens.
In England and throughout the multi-racial Commonwealth its people know that despite the hypocrisy and pretence, the Bill’s measures apply to immigration in general, in fact, it applied primarily and solely to prevent the entry and also ejection of coloured citizens”.
Despite remarks about failings, when public outcry is intense it is difficult not to take the same position today, considering the extreme lengths the government has gone to in order to enforce the hostile environment.
A further example of this hostility was shown earlier this year during a deportation charter flight to Jamacia, from which six men were granted a reprieve after the then home secretary Sajid Javid issued a blanket statement calling them “serious foreign criminals”.
Also a month later with the criticism of a charter deportation flight to Accra and Lagos for lacking “common decency” towards deportees with the use of unnecessary restraint, and no privacy when using the bathroom.
The number of people in Jamacia, some of whom have been in the UK for most of their lives and who have been sent back in the last few years with very little guidance or help thanks to the Home Office’s removal of funding for Jamacia’s National Organization of Deported Migrants earlier this year, and together with the abandonment of potential Windrush compensation claimants who have been deported, continues to be an issue.
Their names, together with the names of people around the world who have been unfairly or unlawfully deported may remain unknown, without any intervention.
But all of these people combined to make the many parts of this massive human rights failure.
How do we address the Windrush Scandal, threats to the freedom of movement of EU citizens, restrictions imposed on students and doctors, unlawful deportations, detention centre deaths and abuse, and cases such as that of Dexter Bristol.
We have to acknowledge that these issues are all connected. There is no cut-off point for this issue and there probably won’t be in the foreseeable future, not while our Conservative Party continue pushing populist immigration policy, and while the Labour Party meekly offer to scrap some immigration controls as party policy.
Not while we condemn the effects of our immigration system after people such as Bristol have died, yet continue to support its existence.