Conference 2018 – Windrush scandal

The last day of National Conference 2018 marked exactly 70 years since the ‘Empire Windrush’ docked at Tilbury carrying hundreds of migrants from the West Indies.
The anniversary should be a celebration of the contribution these and other migrants made – particularly to our trade union and our public services. However, it happened just when many of the children of those migrants are facing the consequences of Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ for immigration.
In an impassioned debate, the impact on many UNISON members as well as the wider community was spelt out.

Michael Braithwaite
Michael Braithwaite with General Secretary Dave Prentis and his UNISON rep, Hugo Pierre

A video was shown highlighting the case of UNISON member Michael Braithwaite who lost his job as a teaching assistant after 15 years and despite having a ‘British Commonwealth’ passport was threatened with deportation. Now 66, he had come to the UK aged 9 to join his parents. As he said “To think that maybe tomorrow I would not be with my family, or in a place I love, was devastating”. “A campaign has now won him indefinite leave to remain but his life has been turned upside down. There is an article about Michael’s story here.

A speaker from the National Executive Committee moved an Emergency Motion calling for justice for the Windrush generation. Although the Home Secretary had been forced to resign, in reality people are still being denied access to employment and services and a number have been deported. It seems as though the only thing Theresa May is sorry about is that she got found out! It was My who started this policy. Public sector workers are here to deliver services, not to be border guards as the Tories would like.

One delegate from the West Midlands spoke of her friend, who had gone to a meeting to sort out her passport only to be detained with only the clothes she stood up in an held for two weeks before she was allowed a phone call.

Another delegate said that what had happened to the Windrush generation could happen to others – no-one from the Commonwealth was safe.

Conference overwhelmingly passed the motion calling amongst other things for:

  • Campaign for the restoration of full rights for the ‘Windrush generation’ , Commonwealth British residents and their children
  • Campaign for rights to legal aid and full compensation for any losses incurred including injury to feelings
  • Campaign against the ‘hostile environment’
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