A pin badge on a suit of the Windrush flag
The flag representing the Windrush generation. Credit: Krishita Kandoi

On June 22 2023, it will be 75 years since the HMT Empire Windrush docked in Tilbury, Essex. The ship arrived in 1948 and brought with it 492 passengers from the Caribbean, such as Jamaica.

The Windrush generation doesn’t just refer to the people on this ship and their descendants, but people from 1948-1971 who came to the UK in response to a call to fill labour shortages after the Second World War.

Many became manual workers, cleaners, drivers and nurses in the NHS, which was established in 1948. They helped to take on the roles many British people were rejecting.

While it was initially thought that many of these migrants would return home, some would in fact stay in the UK.

The 1971 Immigration Act, passed by the Conservative government, allowed citizens from the Commonwealth indefinite leave to remain, which is the right to permanently live and work in the UK.

Positive reception?

Many of the migrants thought that the reception to their arrival would be positive. In their minds they were travelling to the mother country to join an imperial family to which they belonged – some, after all, had fought for the British during the Second World War.

But this was far from the actual reaction they would get, as in reality they encountered racism.

Despite this discrimination, the Windrush generation contributed much to British society, not just economically but also culturally. Many brought the traditions of the Caribbean along with them, enriching the culture in the UK.

The Windrush scandal

In 2018, what has become known as the Windrush scandal erupted when it emerged that the Home Office had failed to keep proper records of people to whom it had granted indefinite leave to remain.

It mean people, including some in Nottingham, who had lived and worked here for decades, raising families contributing economically, socially and culturally, lacked the correct paperwork to prove their right to stay in the country.

Unable prove they were in the UK legally, those affected were prevented from accessing healthcare, work and housing.

Many were also threatened with being deported to the Caribbean.

The campaign to support victims of the scandal and seek reparation is ongoing, led locally by organisations such as The Pilgrim Church in The Meadows.