Now that the “Windrush scandal” has claimed the head of the Home Secretary, it is time to reflect on all this. I am no friend of the Tory party, but am always cautious of any Guardian-led immigration hysteria, as well. Now, the Guardian was right to raise this, and of course it is outrageous etc etc. Yet, is there not a cautionary tale within about one’s personal responsibility?
An umpteenth article about the so-called “Windrush scandal” in the Guardian recently condemned former immigration minister Damian Green for suggesting, 7 years back, that keeping evidence of one’s immigration status was that person’s responsibility. I hate the Tories and have no sympathy for Mr. Green, but forgive me, all people of good will: it is. It is one’s responsibility. While many societal factors have led to it being the case, ultimately the “Windrush scandal” is, simply put, a failure, by great many people, to care in the least, and for most of their lives, what their immigration status was – despite knowing well that they were not born here, nor were British at birth. What sensible person would not, one day in those 30, 40, 50 years and so on, ask themselves — how did I come to be here, and is there any evidence of that?
One need have not waited until the highly trumped-up hostile environment was implemented, or they got into some other peril, such as an urgent visit to a dying parent’s bedside overseas, to ask that question. Don’t get me wrong, some people indeed did not wait – and I know some have had all these problems 15, 10 etc etc years ago, so this is not to excuse the govt’s ineptitude in the least. But making this story about the failure of hostile environment is the wrong focus. Hostile environment brought it all out at the same time, but the story was always there.
To anyone who knows a first thing about this government — as people who lived here all of the advertised length of years would – it would have been pretty obvious that there would NOT be any sort of computerized records, or likely ANY records, on anything circa 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 80s, or (I deeply suspect) even 90s. Forget the 1948 or whatever it was, entirely. Our government shows consistent and spectacular failure in every admin task across the board, not only immigration – so it would be bordering on mental incompetence to expect that somehow it would immediately know that you stepped off some boat in the 60s as a toddler included on your long-departed uncle’s passport, and there maybe was or wasn’t a stamp in it granting you some sort of leave.
Moreover, today we have people working in UKVI, HMPO and on the borders, who either went to primary school, or, even if they are older, most certainly were not in any way involved in immigration, even 15-20 years ago – something we see every day in confusion surrounding types of immigration leave held by EU nationals and their family members prior to 2000 and then again prior to 2006 (when the Free Movement Directive was implemented in the UK). An average UKVI employee today lacks even the imagination to concede that laws and rules may have been different 20 years ago (and people with those problems mostly do have passports with stamps!) , let alone 30, 40, 50 and so forth.
That, in part, includes me. I am not entirely sure what the law was before 1973 or even before 1981, when the current nationality law took effect, leaving very narrow categories of people with right of abode. I know some implications of 1981 law on people who have some form of DOCUMENTED pre-1981 status — documented being the keyword, I had senior people bring me their parents’ 1940’s dated passports, so, again, it is a bit about each family’s ability to take care of their documents or be aware that documents are a thing. There is not a rule that says no one has any documents from 1960s. People do, and from 50s, 40s et cetera. And then there are also people that come to my office and swear that 2014 was too long ago for them to remember anything that happened, or that they cannot be sure today, in 2018, whether they came to the UK in 2009 or 2010.
Back to the point though, modern immigration system, information on which is readily available to anyone involved, no matter how well-minded, provides no answer to an immigrant who entered 50 years ago and has no documents of any kind. We do not know how and on what conditions they entered, and it would indeed me on him or her to demonstrate it to us, routinely this would be through possession of contemporaneous documents. Is it sensible today to rely on a weathered 1960s uncle’s passport — suppose you do have it — to prove your status? No. One should have sought an ILR (or NTL) stamp in a new passport each time they had a new passport, and certainly at least once after the era of computerization.
I know (I have been told now, by the Guardian) that there was indeed some law, or a promise, or some other reason that says all these people were going to get — what? Public hysteria never made that clear. ILR? NTL? Citizenship on arrival before 1973? For whom? Those who answered the call to rebuild postwar Britain? What about their children, about whom there is most often no paperwork? What about their nephews? Apparently back then it was normal to bring in nephews on your passport, something modern immigration laws — and child protection laws — would never allow. It is quite possible in reality many of these people had no formal immigration proceedings to their name and were not mention on any adults’ proceedings, or stamps. It looks like. So what IS a civil service worker today to think? We do have a right to limited leave to remain, for large sums of money, based on living here for 20 years illegally, or ILR if 10 years legally, both based on proof that it was the case. Surprise then, a person who never cared what nationality or immigration status they had, likewise doesn’t have bills, bank statements or other evidence of residence. So the system crumbles.
Making sure you and the govt are on the same page once in every 10 years is not that much of a burden. And some of these people were eligible for registration as British for a long time and should have done it, and could have done it when the events were still within a generation of memory and records maybe existed. This is not complicated.
I only wish someone had said to these so-called “Windrush immigrants” what I say to EU citizens every day: If you were not born in the country you live in, you should ask yourself what your status in it is and how you can prove it, even if no one asked YOU that question, YET. Because the day will come when they will. And if that day comes in 30 years, or they ask not you but your child, what will they answer? It is irresponsible to not give a flying **** about paperwork and then load this on the shoulders of your children, and a new generation of civil workers who have no idea what to do with you, because their current laws and systems they were given to work with, simply do not allow for a possibility that you exist/ed.
(Some people born in the UK after 1983 may also not be British, even though again avenues exist for all of them to become British, often they are born to parents irresponsible or oblivious to those avenues – so if you were born here but your parents weren’t, and you don’t have a British passport, start asking questions).
It occurred to me recently that this total abdication of personal responsibility for one’s actions is actually a product of the Nanny State itself. The government tell us every day, just as it gw#rows more and more incompetent, that it knows better. It knows better what movies I am allowed to show to my teenage child, it knows better pretty much everything about choices people in other countries normally would make themselves. A result — a population, indigenous and immigrant alike, that doesn’t ask questions. This is quite unique to this Island, and is now backfiring big time.
I can however say with a HIGH degree of certainty, what the next Windsrush scandal will be. Already today I see many EU nationals – some of them semi-literate, non -English speaking, working in occasional jobs or semi-skilled physical labour, some maybe wife abusers or child abusers, who refuse to provide any documents as to their employment here over the last 15 years, or apply for PR documents or any kind of status, claiming essentially 2 things: one – that they do not have anything because they threw everything away, two — that no one can, in their opinion, throw them out, because they have been here “already” 7, 10, 13 years and so on. They are usually very proud of both of those claims and wear them as a badge of honour.
There is also a more entitled ground of EU nationals, usually those from Western European countries, who think they are so sophisticated, white, middle class and otherwise desirable, that surely any rules that exist cannot possibly apply to them, therefore it is not necessary to worry about paperwork.
Both of those groups are large, self-confident, and united by several factors: none of them by and large have any idea what, if any, are conditions on their residence in the UK (most are certain there aren’t any conditions), and what is the legal basis of their stay here. No amount of caution, advice, can counsel them. They just don’t care. They are the new Windrush generation, if you will, and I predict with high degree of certainty that on 30th March 2019, or otherwise 1 January 2021 or whatever it is, the New Windrush scandal is coming: these same people’s righteous indignation at being asked to provide basis for their residence here, or evidence at the border that they have in fact been resident.
Many immigration bloggers and writers have been right to raise in recent months, that the new application system for EU nationals, touted as revolutionary by the now-gone Home Secretary, will have low levels of uptake, leaving outside of its brackets those who are low-income, low-English, poor, unsophisticated, no access to technology etc etc. That is even after the big question, such as, would people still have to provide evidence of residence UNDER THE FREE MOVEMENT DIRECTIVE or wil it be a free-for-all amnesty for teh procrastinations, the inept, the those who do not care, etc etc? Sure some people are disenfranchised, but quite a few just DON’T CARE or think that their rights are so automatic and obvious tha they can never be required to prove them. The proposed system might just encourage that attitude, which already led to one Windrush scandal, and, come Brexit, will lead to another.
Even if the application system will represent amnesty as such — and trust me, immigration conditions and burden of proof one had to meet to get any papers in all the intervening years that most of the Windrush generation did not care about theirs, was indeed lower than it is now – it will only insult the intelligence of those sub groups who did choose to care and comply with the mainstream rules in a timely manner. There will still be many, many people who do not care enough even to go the easy route, and their indignation will still be on the front page of the Guardian.
There is one principal commonality to the Windrish people situation and the EU citizens situation: that both of them rely principally on status that should have been bestowed on them automatically, by operation of law. .So they were told — in attempt to fight of a bureaucratic nightmare, at the time all were told not to worry and do nothing. Until everyone forgot what it is they could have done, papers were gone, etc etc. If there was hostile environment in the 1970s, would they have been in this situation today? No, they would have all had papers. has UK had requirements for EU registration and confirmation documents all these years, as did many other EU countries, would we have been facing new oncoming Windrush of ignorance to which we can now only count down? No.
What happens now to Windrush people should be a cautionary take to the EU citizens of here and today, and especially those whose children were born here and relied on unregistered right to a British passport once issued to them based on a notion that they parent maybe worked here for 5 years prior to their birth. Now, 5 years later, many can;t renew these passports, because HMPO changed their standards. People! Those EU nationals who can’t be bothered to register their children properly as British! Have you ever thought how they will prove in 10, 15, 25, 35 years time that their parents maybe worked in the UK between 2005 and 2010 and maybe were or weren’t registered on WRS? In 50 years time? Do you not understand that you are gifting your child with a problem that will last them a lifetime and then transfer on to their children, because of your own ineptitude?
Open the Guardian, look into the faces of those now elderly people dying of cancer because they got chucked out of the NHS, and see the future of your child. These people have all been brought here by their parents or other adults 50 years ago and told not to worry. They trusted the nanny state. You don’t want your child to end up like that, in 50 years when no one alive in the Home Office remembers the EU anymore? USE YOUR OWN HEAD then.
There are computers today, you say? So there were in the 90s. No one keeps anything over 6 years, nor your bank nor HMRC. 10 if you are lucky, If anything, computer storage is more susceptible to accidental destruction of mismanagement than paper storage ever was — at least certainly so at the hands or our beloved government. Don’t, as Russians say, make my slippers laugh (не смешите мои тапочки).
Unless we use the Windrush example as a cautionary tale that will end all “automatic” status assumptions and start requiring people, here and today — partly whan hostile environment already does, but INCLUDING EU NATIONALS – to worry about their status, the history will (surprise) repeat itself, just as the memory of the current generation’s experience fades.