[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Jon King (Newham Recorder) writes about the Custom House pupils who recently wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May to protest looming deportations. About 200 schoolchildren were moved by the plight of the Windrush generation to write letters. [Also see related articles from BBC News, and The Nation in the links below.]
The 12 to 14-year-old pupils from Royal Docks Academy in Custom House decided to take action over government threats to deport the children of citizens from Caribbean countries who, despite living in the UK for decades, have been told they are here illegally because of a lack of paperwork.
Pupil Aisha Creary – whose grandparents hail from Jamaica, Montserrat and India – said: “People shouldn’t be dismissed because of where they come from, especially when they have been invited to come to the UK. This policy breaks up families and friendships.”
Some of the students from the Prince Regent Lane school now plan to hand deliver their letters to 10 Downing Street. Classmate Shae-Ann McLeod – whose father was born in Antigua – said: “What is happening is unjust because these people have lived here for years. They are at risk of being sent away.”
Royal Docks Academy geography teacher Sandra Reeks – who organised the letter writing – shared with pupils stories of Junior Green who missed his mother’s funeral in the UK because he was not allowed to return to the country he had lived in since he was 13 months old after a visit to Jamaica. They were also shown a debate on the issue in parliament. Ms Reeks said: “It has been quite emotional as so many of our students are in similar situations where their parents brought them over here. I have been overwhelmed by their reactions.”
And the school’s headteacher, John Blaney, said: “I am just so moved by how this story has captured our students’ attention. “They are so passionate about this and their commitment to justice and equality is a reminder of what a privilege it is to work with young people: they are a true example to us all.”
People who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries have been labelled the Windrush generation after the ship MV Empire Windrush which brought the first migrants from the Caribbean to the UK in 1948.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has been clear, this is about people who have built their lives here in the UK and contributed so much to our society. We don’t want them to feel unwelcome or to be in any doubt about their right to remain here and she has apologised unreservedly for any distress caused.
“The vast majority will already have documentation that proves their right to be here. For those that don’t, we have established a new dedicated team to quickly help them get the documentation they need and ensure this is resolved as soon as possible. We’ve also set up a webpage and have been speaking to charities, community groups and High Commissioners to ensure advice and reassurance is provided to those affected,” he added.
Windrush citizens: ‘It’s like having your world torn apart’ [VIDEO 3:09]
Shay Notelovitz, Maeve Shearlaw and Josh Toussaint-Strauss, The Guardian, April 27, 2018
Windrush: Who exactly was on board?
Lucy Rodgers and Maryam Ahmed, BBC News, April 27, 2018
Windrush: The view from Jamaica [VIDEO 1:40]
BBC, April 26, 2018
The Veneration of the Windrush Generation
Gary Younge, The Nation, April 25, 2018