IIn the year of her coronation in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II took her to the Christmas Embassy in New Zealand. She did so as Head of the Commonwealth which she said was “nothing like the empires of the past”. In truth, there were many similarities—including massive and unfair imbalances in wealth and power that persist to this day. Immigration policy is one area in which Britain’s imperial past has left an indelible mark. A government-commissioned report in the wake of the Windrush scandal by a historian employed by the Home Office provides an accessible account of the mechanics of this process.
So it is bitterly ironic, if not surprising, that within a week when the nation’s attention turns to the 1950s to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee, it turns out that ministers are denying public access to those who deny knowledge. The report, completed last year and titled “Historical Roots of the Windrush Scandal,” was leaked to the Guardian after a Freedom of Information request was denied because its disclosure could affect “the department’s ability to conduct politics in a secure manner…”room for development”.
This was a wrong decision. The horrific treatment of thousands of black Britons from 2010 onwards is considered one of the most shameful events in our modern history. At least 164 people were arrested or deported as a result of the “hostile environment” created by the Ministry of Interior. In the words of Wendy Williams’ review, published in 2020, they were forced to “feel like criminals in a country where they have lived legally most of their lives”. About 20 people died before compensation was received, many of them in the Caribbean.
Ms. Williams found that “institutional ignorance” was responsible for a situation in which laws were changed to punish blacks without the Home Office understanding that this was the case. The report on the roots of the policy came in response to their call for better education. He describes with impressive clarity the process by which laws began to differentiate between whites and blacks. It shows how many Acts of Parliament from 1950 onwards “aimed at reducing the proportion of non-whites living in the United Kingdom”. This was and remains a racial legacy of an elemental empire. This is no secret.
But the government does not seem ready to confront it. Since Ms Williams’ report, there have been warm words but little sign of a culture change in Priti Patel’s department. In March, Williams said she was “disappointed at the lack of tangible progress”. Her proposal for the post of Immigrant Commissioner was not taken up. Windrush victims frustrated by delays in compensation
This context makes the refusal to publish the historian’s work all the more clear. It is disrespectful to people whose lives have been shattered by the hostile environment not to be transparent about the results, which includes an account of the dysfunctional tripartite relationship between the government, the Ministry of Interior, and the official bodies created for monitoring and improvement. Inter-ethnic relations and society. Keeping this secret is undemocratic and the opposite of upbringing. This will be the case at all times. In a week dedicated to celebrating the past 70 years of British history, this film sheds a particularly bad light on government.
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