'Windrush' scandal: Chronically-ill people kicked out of UK hospitals
A scheme that was meant to be voluntary but may not have entailed a valid permission procedure resulted in the return of 400 persons to their countries of birth between the 1950s and the 1970s, a BBC investigation reveals.
More than five years after the unlawful deportation and detention of Britons of Caribbean ancestry was made public, a new BBC investigation revealed that hundreds of members of the "Windrush" generation who were chronically and psychologically ill were transferred from UK hospitals to the Caribbean, often without their informed permission.
A scheme that was meant to be voluntary but may not have entailed a valid permission procedure resulted in the expulsion of 400 persons to their countries of birth between the 1950s and the 1970s, according to an analysis of formerly classified National Archives documents.
Children of those who were expelled eviscerate that their families were torn apart and that some of them were never rejoined with their siblings. In reaction to the disclosures made by the BBC, they have requested an investigation.
The 'Windrush' Scandal: Getting rid of affected migrants
Known as the "Windrush" generation -- after the Empire Windrush, one of the ships that brought them to the UK from the West Indies -- they were invited to work in Britain due to shortages of key workers in the aftermath of World War II.
They were granted indefinite leave to remain, but many who did not apply for passports found themselves targeted by immigration laws designed to create a "hostile environment" for illegal immigrants.
After the right-wing Conservative Party regained office in 2010 when May served as Interior Minister, the hardline policy was pioneered.
Subsequently, many found themselves accused of being illegal immigrants. Due to their inability to provide documentation, many people lost their houses, jobs, health insurance, pensions, and benefits. Others were forced to return to the Caribbean.
The National Assistance Board, the predecessor of the Department for Work and Pensions, which was then in charge of the UK's welfare system, returned the majority of people affected. In 1949, the board and the Colonial Office reached an agreement enabling the board to pay for the return of "colored British colonials who, due to illness or an inability to adapt to the conditions in this country, were unable to support themselves."
A scandal within a scandal
Under the systematic plan, the patient should “have expressed a wish to return." It also should only have been carried out if it would “benefit” them and if there were “suitable arrangements … in their country of origin."
However, BBC unmasked papers suggesting that the plan to repatriate affected people was driven by a desire to ease the burden on hospital beds. In a 1963 letter to the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Jamaican high commissioner's office stated that it had received "a number of requests from hospital authorities for the repatriation of chronically ill patients, largely on the grounds of pressure on beds or other hospital services."
The request appeared to be made by institutions that "view mental disorder and, in some cases, chronic illness as grounds for repatriating Commonwealth citizens regardless of whether adequate treatment and care are available," according to the documents.
A UK government spokesperson claimed that the law had shifted since the time of these cases. “Now an independent tribunal has to agree that any repatriation would be in the best interests of the patient. We recognise the campaigning of families seeking to address the historic injustice faced by their loved ones, and remain absolutely committed to righting the wrongs faced by those in the Windrush generation,” the spokesperson said.
It is worth noting that those affected by the "Windrush" scandal continue to receive insufficient compensation offers and long waits, a recent report by a leading human rights organization revealed.
Earlier this year, a UN group on people of African descent acknowledged that the "Windrush" generation had endured "irreparable harm" and that redress was "imperative".