The Windrush Generation and the Hostile Environment Bill – Poem

Listen to the Poem “The Windrush Generation and the Hostile Environment Bill” read in June 2023 exclusively for Liberation by Eulinda Antonette Clarke-Akalanne.

‘The Windrush Generation and the Hostile Environment Bill’ 

Let’s look back in history

to find the origins of the Windrush mystery.

Three hundred and seventy-six years ago…

women, children and men of African origin

were captured and enslaved to work in the Caribbean.

These slaves became British West Indian citizens

who laboured for the British plantocracy in their thousands.

They tilled the Earth, fork, spaded and hoed

Harvesting coffee, cocoa, tobacco

and producing sugar which was called ‘White Gold’

that enriched Britain’s economy more than a hundredfold

financing her commercial and industrial Revolution

while strengthening and expanding her capitalism.

West Indians served in the two Great Wars

soldiering on with patriotism, pride and deep loyalty

to fight and to die for Britain, their Mother country.

Now, fast forward, 75 years ago, they were called to Britain to serve again

to fill job vacancies created by World War Two

that many local people deemed undesirable to do.

With no hesitation the migrants came to serve their king and country

They came to the motherland that they adored…

a land of hope and bounty.

The ship, ‘Empire Windrush’, brought the first four hundred and ninety-two…

in the year 1948, Tuesday, June twenty-two.

They filled job vacancies like Public Transport, National Health Service (to which I belonged), and British Rail,

despite having their social and cultural lives curtailed…

by prejudice, racism, discrimination, hostility and attacks

like the 1958 and 1959 assaults in Notting Hill by white youths on blacks…

And bullied by Teddy boys and barred from private housing and flats

with signs which read, ‘No Irish, No dogs, No blacks’

And the 1962 Immigration Act designed to close Britain’s doors

Barring further entry of Coloureds to her shores.

Plus an election campaign slogan of 1964

That read ‘If you want a NIGGER for a neighbour


And Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ prophecy of 1968,

That hasn’t materialised up to today’s date.

The Windrush migrants never questioned their residential state

because they believed their statuses were up to date.

These beliefs were reinforced by the Immigration Act 1971

that conferred Indefinite Leave of stay to them, each and everyone

The contributions and jobs these loyal citizens maintained

Helped to build a global and modern Britain

Theresa May’s Hostile Environment Bill of 2013

Aimed to reduce net migration to tens of thousands, this was her dream.

It made life in Britain difficult for those without correct documentation

and caused some Windrush migrants hardships beyond expectation

because, they had lost their original passports and/or documentation

And to crown it all, in 2009 by Home Office instruction

their landing cards and records went to destruction.

This resulted in many of them being declared illegal immigrants

despite paying their taxes and National Insurances

The driving licence of some Windrush migrants were revoked

Others were sacked from their jobs and left destitute and broke

Some were evicted from home

and left on the streets to rough sleep and roam

Bank accounts were frozen and salaries denied
From these experiences some tragically died

all because of the Hostile Environment Bill

that psychologically maims and sometimes physically kill

Windrush migrants were deported

And others denied re-entry to Britain when at the airports they reported.

Some people’s pensions were stopped

And others had health care suspended or completely dropped

Some families were split and separated

Other individuals were incarcerated or repatriated

The traumas of the Hostile Environment Bill are too numerous to mention here

But some include despair, depression, dread and fear

Suffice it to say, some experienced extreme calamity

Deep mental scars and total disharmony.

Thanks to pressure groups, the Windrush scandal is being addressed

By December 2018, more than 3000 Windrush migrants

Had their British citizenships reinstated

3rd April 2019 the Windrush compensation scheme was launched

But 12.8 per cent of the 11,500 eligible claimants have been reimbursed

Windrush compensation scheme fact sheet, October 2020, states

We are determined to put the good right,

the terrible injustices faced by some people from the Windrush generation

Windrush migrants, take heed of this declaration and ensure it is done

Fight on until the battle is won. 

The recording was made as part of an interview for Liberation to mark 75 years since the arrival of the ship HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks in 1948, bringing more than 800 passengers from the Caribbean. On 22 June 2023 we will mark its 75th anniversary.

Eulinda Antonette Clarke-Akalanne was born in Barbados and came to the UK as part of the Windrush Generation, having been invited along with other women and girls to train as nurses in England; she worked in this field throughout her career. Antonette, as she is known, is also a poet, and published her first anthology of poems, EUANCA, in October 2021 to celebrate her 80th birthday. Since her retirement, Antonette received a Bachelor of Arts honours degree in Anthropology in 2018 as well as a Master of Arts degree in Black Humanities from the University of Bristol in 2022.

Liberation wishes to thank Antonette for agreeing to the interview.

The interview, conducted by Liberation volunteer Adrian von Bonsdorff, will be published in our Journal Saturday 24 June 2023. The journal is distributed with the Morning Star newspaper and is mailed to Liberation members.

Photo: Antonette in front of the ship, SS Great Britain on Thursday 8th June 2023 in celebration of 75 years of the Windrush

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