Image © barrelofthelens via Twenty20

It’s good that the UK government has sympathy for Hong Kong citizens, but why doesn’t it feel the same way about the Windrush generation?

The UK government has made very clear its sympathy towards the citizens of  Hong Kong (a former British Colony) through a policy where Hong Kongers may decide to come to the UK for five years to work and live. In my opinion it appears that the same sympathy is not being applied to some members of the Windrush Generation.

The Windrush was the name of the first of several ships that brought men and women from all over the Caribbean to the UK from the late ‘40s to the ‘70s. These migrants were invited by the UK government to come work in the country because Britain needed more nurses and men to work on the railways after the second world war. They made huge contributions to the post-war reconstruction efforts. 

As Commonwealth citizens these people were supposed to be entitled to various legal rights, like being able to remain indefinitely in the UK and apply for citizenship. Instead, some of the members of the Windrush generation and their children and grandchildren are still fighting to gain British citizenship. Some of them have been deported back to the Caribbean countries which they left many years ago. A significant number of them were imprisoned, while some died before receiving their citizenship.

As a migrant myself I am very concerned by these reports that I am still hearing to the effect that the British government is trying to get rid of people who have made their home in the UK. As a British resident of African Caribbean origin, it is my opinion that members of this generation were failed by the government. They endured so much suffering, degradation, pain and racism after being denied automatic Leave to Remain in the UK. Why couldn’t the government have applied the same rules to them as it did to Hong Kong?

Image © Steve Eason via Flickr

Up to July 2020 over 350,000 citizens in Hong Kong were allowed to become holders of British Overseas National Passport (BONP). That means they, and maybe their dependents, are able to travel to the UK and stay for up to 6 months without a visa.

As a result of the recent authoritarian developments in China, the UK government said they would grant Hong Kongers visas so that they can work and stay in the UK even longer. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was quoted as saying, “I will not walk away from the citizens of Hong Kong who hold British National Overseas Passports. I have no choice but to uphold the ties with the territory.” 

I would like Mr Johnson to give the same level of consideration to the Windrush generation and their descendents. I am encouraged by the work of charitable groups in the UK, who are continuing their campaigns that are aimed at pressing upon the Home Office to grant citizenship to members of the Windrush generation. Many of these people are poorer or vulnerable in various ways. Some are homeless or are living in overcrowded homes, bedsits and hotels.

Like all of us, these people desperately need a good and proper place to call home.

About the author

My name is Althia Loraine Barnett, and I Live in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham with my husband Anthony. I was born in Jamaica, I am a wife, mother and grandmother, I love to cook, bake and also try my hand at craftwork. I came to live in the UK 19 years ago. I worked as a dinner lady cleaner, care worker, and school bus guide with  Birmingham City Council. I was schooled in Jamaica, I didn’t finish high school so I developed my education by reading and practicing writing  from other educational sources.

I came into journalism by attending a Media Lab meeting with a friend and it started from there. My writing style is around migrant-related stories, current affairs and opinion pieces. My new found love in journalism is to see myself writing articles for well established news corporations.

My ambition is to write articles that will attract the most advanced organisations who might be looking for new and exciting writers with different writing styles. My belief is we should always look out for each other, as this world was created in the image of  the rainbow, we come in different colours, shapes and sizes if we mix them together what a wonderful world this would be to live in.

This article is part of our Voices of the Economy series. The project brings together the economic experiences and opinions of people from a range of different backgrounds and showcases voices which are not heard as often when we talk about the economy. To find out more and share your own story click here.

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