The Windrush Scandal

In response to the severe post-war labour shortage the British government invited migrants from Caribbean colonies to the UK with the promise of work. HMT Empire Windrush was the first ship to set sail from the Caribbean and brought migrants from Trinidad, Bermuda, Jamaica and other colonies. The ship docked in Essex in June 1948 and marked the start of a period of migration where tens of thousands of people, many of them children travelling on their parents’ passports, migrated from the Caribbean to the UK between 1948 and 1971. This generation of settlers has become known as the ‘Windrush generation’ named after the ship that started the influx.

Why is the Windrush generation in the news?

Many of the Windrush generation were given legal status to stay in the UK under the (now largely repealed) British Nationality Act 1948. However, the Home Office failed to keep records of those people allowed to stay in the UK and in many cases did not issue paperwork confirming immigration status. Further, it was revealed that the Home Office destroyed landing cards belonging to Windrush migrants in 2010.

The Immigration Act 2014, which came into force in May 2014, places an obligation on the NHS, landlords and employers to verify a person’s immigration status. The upshot of the Act is that a person must prove their legal immigration status in order to work, claim healthcare and benefits and rent a property. The Act was part of the drive by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, to create a “hostile environment” towards illegal immigration.

The inevitable consequence of these tougher immigration laws is that many of the Windrush generation and their families do not have the necessary documents to prove their immigration status, even though they are in the UK legally and have been for decades. It is reported that Windrush migrants have been refused NHS treatment, had driving licences revoked and been threatened with deportation. The daughter of one Windrush migrant has been detained at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.

The extent of the scandal and injustice is unclear and new details are emerging on a daily basis. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, apologised last week and said she is “genuinely sorry for any anxiety that has been caused”. The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has admitted to knowing about the issue for some months and described the treatment of Windrush migrants as “appalling”.

What can the Windrush generation do next?

Ms Rudd has promised to set up a reparation scheme “with urgency” and offered compensation to any Windrush migrant or family member who has suffered loss. There is also the promise of a relaxation to current immigration rules which will make it easier for Windrush migrants to apply for British citizenship.

Matthew Gold & Company Ltd Solicitors has extensive experience representing migrants and migrant families in legal challenges including civil claims for damages against the Home Office and other public bodies. We have particular expertise in providing advice to migrants who have no recourse to public funds or no right to work which has led to financial hardship and destitution. We currently represent family members of the Windrush generation.  Our friendly and compassionate solicitors fully understand the impact unfair and degrading treatment by public bodies has on wellbeing and mental health.

If you would like to find out more please contact our office on 020 8445 9268 or email