The treatment of those of Caribbean origin shows a need for the law to be rebalanced
Harold Wilson’s famous comment that a week is a long time in politics has been borne out once again by the “Windrush generation” affair. How many of us, a matter of weeks ago, knew the term or what it derived from? Yet at time of writing it has cost one Home Secretary her job, and it appears to have plenty of mileage in it yet.
The shameful treatment of some of those who have lived and worked here almost all their lives but to whom no one granted a simple document confirming their right to stay, for which the Government is rightly proposing compensation, has at least caused more people to question the “hostile environment” it set out to create in relation to illegal immigration.
Now illegal is illegal, and with so many seeking to come to this country for many different reasons, it is right that there should be clear criteria, fairly applied, to determine admission, and a system for removing those found to have got round the rules. But to set out to create an atmosphere of suspicion, which for some ethnic groups could be akin to “guilty until proved innocent”, when it comes to seeking work, or accommodation, or even medical treatment, is surely wrong where the authorities must have known that there are many innocent people in our midst who were likely to suffer as a result.
The wider relevance of this concerns nationals of other EU member states whose status here is affected by Brexit. (And who knows who else?) Tales of Home Office harshness towards individuals who have been here often for decades, but who again lack vital official pieces of paper that no one at the outset thought to issue, are shockingly frequent, and if Windrush forces a rethink as to how their residence rights may be confirmed, some good will have come of it.
Again, there should be examined what kind of society we wish to be, or become, more particularly as Brexit deadlines approach. A country that seeks to forge new and deep partnerships with other nations globally cannot afford to be seen as hostile without good reason towards foreign citizens, who may come from those same countries, and who happen to be within its territory. Moreover, it appears that our health service is already suffering from a shortage of skilled personnel due to quotas being given more weight than actual need. Time, surely, for the law to be rebalanced, and to be applied having regard to the needs of the society it should be there to underpin.