Immigration in the United Kingdom Essay

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Windrush Generation


After the end of WWII, the British were faced with a severe labor shortage. There were simply not enough workers to tend to the work needed in England. The war had wrought considerable destruction and the solution, it seemed at the time, was to import labor. Immigrants from the Caribbean countries, such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados were invited to the UK between the years of 1948 and 1971 to help fill the labor shortage. They arrived at the ship the MV Empire Windrush, which is where the name “Windrush Generation” comes from.[footnoteRef:2] As a result of the 1971 Immigration Act, people living in the UK were given the right to stay. However, in recent years, immigration laws have become more restrictive, and it is now estimated that nearly 50,000 long-term residents in the UK are at risk of being deported—many of them elderly. This is particularly problematic for the Windrush Generation, as “many of the Windrush generation had arrived as children on their parents' passports. And although they have lived in Britain for many decades—paying taxes and insurance—they never formally became British citizens.” This paper will discuss the issue of the Windrush Generation from a historical and contemporary vantage point to show what happened and what remains to be done. [2: Al Jazeera, The UK’s Windrush Generation, 2018.]

The Scandal

In 2018, more than 80 cases involving members of the Windrush Generation were reported in which the immigrants and their children, some of whom were British born, were wrongfully denied rights and deported by the UK Home Office.[footnoteRef:3] These were people who had been living in the UK for decades and whose residency was legally permitted by the 1971 Immigration Act and whose citizenship had been declared by the 1948 British Nationality Act. Under PM May, the UK enacted a “hostile environment policy” to crackdown on illegal immigration.[footnoteRef:4] Since voters voted for Brexit years ago, there has been a general consensus that the motive was in part related to a desire to separate England from the open borders policy of the EU. By cracking down on immigration, Parliament believed it could potentially satisfy the public and perhaps lessen the demand for a hard or no-deal Brexit. However, what happened was that British citizens ended up being rounded up and deported to a land they had not seen in decades and that some had never seen in their whole lives. It quickly became known as the Windrush Scandal, and British leaders have since been reeling in an attempt to save face. [3: Kevin Rawlinson, Windrush: 11 people wrongly deported have died, The Guardian, 2018.] [4: May Bulman, The human impact of Theresa May’s hostile environment policies, The Independent, 2018.]

Thanks to the efforts of Caribbean diplomats, the revelations of what was happening to the Windrush Generation raised enough attention in the public to lead to changes in the administration. The efforts particularly of Guy Hewitt, the High Commissioner for Barbados to the United Kingdom helped to bring awareness of this issue to the public.[footnoteRef:5] People of the Windrush Generation like Paulette Wilson, who at 61 years of age “spent a week at a detention centre and was nearly deported to Jamaica, despite having been in Britain for 50 years” for the first time were having their stories told.[footnoteRef:6] She was one of the lucky ones, however; she lived. Some who were deported were not so lucky. It was like having the rug pulled out from under one’s entire life for many of the Windrush Generation. Many of them had been children, and they had received no documents upon arrival—and since their arrival had been legal they had no idea they needed to apply for a certain status. As far as they were concerned, they were legal British citizens. [5: Guy Hewitt, Winning the Windrush Battle, Chatham House, 2018.] [6: Al Jazeera, The UK’s Windrush Generation, 2018.]

As the stories began to emerge, members of Parliament began to posture and condemn. The finger pointing began. The apologies ensued. The damage, however, was done for many. Some had lost jobs, some had seen their health deteriorate as a result of being denied treatment. Some had been deported. Some had died, destitute and alone, having been kicked out of the country they had called home for the whole of their lives.
The stories came and came and finally the British government had nothing to do, nothing to say. What was done was done.

The History

The British Nationality Act of 1948 made it possible for the Windrush Generation to come over. It was an Act that granted citizenship to people of UK colonies and allowed them to come to the UK to live and work and settle. If one had been born in a British Colony, under this Act, one was to be considered British. The British government used this Act to help drive a campaign to attract workers from the Caribbean. The war had ended and jobs needed to be filled. The people of the British colonies were viewed as prime candidates to fill those spots. Thus at the request and encouragement of the British government, they came to the UK to live, work and settle.

The individuals who came from the Caribbean had no need to apply…

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…turned into rubble thanks to bombing from the West) that European nations like Hungary and Germany and Italy and the Netherlands began to wonder if they were going to lose their national identity in the face of so much immigration. The EU refused to permit any nation to close its borders, however, and urged every state to do its humane duty and admit the refugees. No one in the EU ever questioned whether or not the bombing campaigns and endless wars in the Middle East that were creating so many refugees in the first place should be stopped. They just insisted that all borders be open, because the EU was one big happy family.

Englanders had had enough by then. They wanted their nation back and they wanted their sovereignty back. They voted to leave the EU mainly because of this type of situation. And they wanted the illegal immigrants in their country to leave. Because part of the British culture is its overwhelming emphasis on politeness, the British would never do something so rude as to go about and arrest its illegals the way ICE does in the U.S. But it would go about making life so untenable for people it viewed as illegal that the illegals would want to get out. That was the British way of sending the message. Unfortunately, the Windrush Generation was caught in the crosshairs. The British did not even realize, in their desire to avenge themselves and their anti-EU sentiment on the illegal immigrant population, that some among them who had been among them for decades but who looked different might nonetheless actually be citizens like them. They had forgotten their history—and their humanity.


The Windrush Generation came over to the UK thanks to the British Nationality Act of 1948. They were citizens of England because they had been born in the British Colonies, according to the Act. England needed laborers, so they were encouraged to come to the UK. They came aboard the Windrush, by which they received their name, and they came for more than a decade. Half a million of them came from the Caribbean and they brought their children, settled down, had more children and lived and worked and died as British citizens. And then one day, because the West had made life so miserable for people living in the Middle East that those Middle Easterners had to leave their homes and take refuge in Europe, the British decided it did not want to deal with the immigration issue anymore. So it began rounding up anyone who could not give their documents. The Windrush Generation, of course, had never had any documents—so they….....

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Al Jazeera, The UK’s Windrush Generation, 2018.

BBC, Windrush Generation, 2018.

Bulman, May. The human impact of Theresa May’s hostile environment policies, The Independent, 2018.

Hewitt, Guy. Winning the Windrush Battle, Chatham House, 2018.

Hill, Amelia. Hostile Environment, The Guardian, 2017.

Home Office, Immigration Status of the Windrush Generation, 2018.

Rawlinson, Kevin. Windrush: 11 people wrongly deported have died, The Guardian, 2018.

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