Those from the Windrush generation will be given British citizenship, Amber Rudd has announced. “The Home Office will now waive citizenship fees for the Windrush generation and their families and any charges for returning to the UK for those who had retired to their countries of origin after making their lives here,” the Guardian reports. “It will also scrap language and British knowledge tests and bring in speedy financial compensation for those that had suffered loss, although there has been little detail so far.” So they can skip the ridiculous tests and hurdles that they shouldn’t have to go through in the first place. Cue the applause.
Except, quite rightly, the applause isn’t coming. Let’s be clear, in no way are they being given citizenship. They are citizens. They have met the requirements for citizenship laid down by the same people who later tried to tell them they weren’t enough — who questioned their authenticity, their integrity, and their very existence. The government is not bestowing or granting or giving. They are acknowledging a fact. These people are citizens. They have already been citizens. They have been living for decades as citizens. And the government is embarrassing itself by presenting this update as a decision they are choosing to make. At best, they are taking a tiny step towards righting egregious wrongs.
Home Secretary just said Windrush children can become citizens if they want to be. They were citizens when we invited them 70 years ago. Their citizenship is theirs by right, and was taken away by your government, not something that your government is now choosing to grant them.
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) April 23, 2018
This is not out of the goodness of their hearts, this is with their tails between their legs. The government is only doing this because they have been caught out — but they were doing exactly as they meant to do. What happened to these people was not a mistake, it was the natural conclusion of an environment of hostility and warrantless punishment. An environment that often roamed far into lawlessness. An environment designed to hurt and to scare. And the environment was going strong, it was thriving — until they were caught at it. But the horriic treatment of the Windrush generation was not a mistake — getting caught was.
So let’s not pretend that some wrong has been righted. This is, at most, an acknowledgment — but when it’s wrapped up as a gift it feels a lot like an insult. A real step would be to look at the current punishing regime and make sure that this doesn’t happen again. To end a culture of deport now, appeal later. To, quite simply, stop f*cking with people’s lives. That’s a way to take a step forward, if the government actually wants to.