I am in the club. I am numbered among the congregation.
Watching the fulminations about the West Indian generation who came to Britain in the 1950’s and subsequently found that they were not as welcome as they either thought or were promised, brings to mind some experiences of mine.
For, I have the same bit of paper one of the victims was proudly clutching on TV last evening. It resides in my passport and except for its size it is identical. It’s dated 9 June 1975. It’s almost exactly like the TV one – except it is on A5 paper, not A4 (saving money in 1975?)
I dug out my old passport. On 8 June 1974 I entered the UK having debarked from the QE II at Southampton. My passport stamp says I have leave to enter the UK for two months. On 16 July I have another stamp which says my leave to remain will expire on 8 June 1975 – I confess I do not remember how I got that stamp. Finally I have a stamp from the Home Office on 9 Jun 1975 saying that the time limit to enter the UK is hereby removed.
Am I of the Windrush generation? No. I am neither black nor West Indian. The cut-off date for Windrush migrants, as reported in the press is 1974. I’m just a “legal” immigrant.
How did all this happen?
Well, in 1974 I graduated from Central Missouri State University and wanted to begin my teaching career. At the same time my wife was pregnant with our oldest son – now over 40. We decided to return to her country of origin. So, we did. At about that time there was a furore in the press regarding wives of British men who had come to the UK to join their husbands.
Was not what’s good for the goose, good for the gander? Eventually the government agreed and therefore husbands of British women were accorded the same rights. Hence my 9 June 75 passport stamp. Clear?
In the intervening years I had no problems citizenship-wise. I had vacations in the USA. I traveled on the continent. I went through immigration and customs without problems.
Once I lost my Home Office letter. Luckily, I arrived back at Heathrow from the US on the first plane to land that morning. Happy Days! I grabbed my luggage and rocked up to Immigration with no queue in sight! Very Happy Days! Because it was so early, I half expected to be waved on my way. No. The immigration officer quizzed me: where are you going? Norwich. Why? I live there. How long? 20-odd years. How am I supposed t know that? Damn it I lost my letter (soto voce) BTW- We had an Australian lady here who was stuck for weeks! Come on, give me a break, please? Okay, on your way. Lucky. I wonder how I might have fared if I had a black face? (I found the letter eventually and it is now safe again in my passport)
Is it stretching it to assume that the Windrush migrants were/are having so many problems because they are black? I don’t think so.
This is a result of government policy and TRUE BRIT. We must guard our borders! Why? We must be wary of strangers/foreigners. The WOGS start at Calais. This government – and to be fair – previous governments of all parties - have created an atmosphere where the Windrush migrants became easy targets. Immigration Officers believed they were carrying out government policy by making it as difficult as possible for black people to enter the homeland. What TOSH.
In his grave, and celebrating the Rivers of Blood speech he made 50 years ago, Enoch Powell must be having a good laugh at the mess he helped to create. The sooner the government and the people move on from the completely ridiculous idea that the whole world is laying siege to Britain the sooner we might get some compassion and sense into the problem.
Two chances: fat and slim.