The Windrush Generation

Commissioned piece written for children via Pull Up magazine

During the Second World War, many homes and businesses in Britain were destroyed and needed to be rebuilt. In 1948, Britain started to recover from the war but were short of workers, resources and equipment. During the war, many Caribbean people had served in the British Armed Forces so they already had connections with Britain. Therefore, the British advertised jobs in construction, public transport and the National Health Service (NHS) amongst others to men and women from Caribbean countries.

Initially, 493 individuals accepted Britain’s offer and travelled on a large ship named the Empire Windrush. They sailed thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean to reach Britain. Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury docks in Essex on the 22nd June 1948. This was the first time so many people from Caribbean countries had come to work and live in Britain, although it is estimated that today around 500,000 people are now living in the UK who arrived from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971. These individuals are called the Windrush generation.

Illustration by Sophia Gazzara

Although Britain promised a friendly welcome and thousands of job vacancies, this was not what the Windrush passengers received. These individuals quickly faced discrimination and racism whilst trying to find homes, jobs and friends. In later years, race attacks broke out in cities across Britain.

In 1971, the Windrush generation were told by the British government that they could stay in Britain permanently. Despite this legal agreement, the government did not keep records of these people and some were not issued with official paperwork like a UK passport.

The British immigration law changed in 2012; British citizens now needed official documents to receive important services like benefits and medical treatment. Some of the Windrush passengers never received these documents and so they were wrongfully sent to immigration detention centres (a place to hold people while it is decided whether someone can stay in Britain or not) and faced deportation (removing these people from Britain).

In 2018, it was discovered that members of the Windrush generation had been unfairly detained or deported. The government apologised for their terrible mistake and said they would help anyone that had left the UK to return.

Over 70 years has passed since the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury docks. The individuals which came to work and live in Britain made significant contributions to its economy and culture. Windrush Day is now held every year on the 22nd June to remember and celebrate the influence the Windrush generation had in Britain.

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writer & visual artist