75th Windrush anniversary marked across the UK in events described as ‘bittersweet’

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The 75th anniversary of the Empire Windrush’s arrival in Britain from the Caribbean is being marked across the country – as campaigners say their battle for “justice” continues.

The King was among those taking part in dozens of events on Thursday when he attended a service in Windsor after describing the Windrush generation’s legacy as “profound and permanent“.

Events are also being held at London’s Southwark Cathedral and the Port of Tilbury, Essex, where the ship docked on 22 June 1948.

The vessel, which had around 500 men and women on board, was the first to bring workers from the Caribbean who answered an appeal to help fill post-war labour shortages.

Other events include exhibitions at museums across the UK and a carnival parade through the streets of Brixton in south London, while the Windrush flag is also being flown at major landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament.

Patrick Vernon, convenor of the Windrush 75 network, which is organising many of the events, said it was a chance to “celebrate the diversity of modern Britain” and to “acknowledge the legacy of those first Windrush pioneers, the challenges they overcame and the contribution they made to Britain”.

King Charles III attends a service at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle in Berkshire for young people, to recognise and celebrate the Windrush 75th Anniversary, in Windsor, Britain, June 22, 2023. Andrew Matthews/Pool via REUTERS
The King at the service at St George’s Chapel in Windsor

But he added it was a “bittersweet moment, tainted by the injustice of the Windrush scandal”.

In 2018 it emerged that many who made legitimate journeys to Britain had been wrongly detained and deported, despite having the right to live in the UK.

Many lost homes and jobs and were denied access to healthcare and benefits. Some of those deported later died before they were able to return to Britain.

The Windrush flag flies over Liverpool Town Hall, marking the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush ship in Tilbury, Essex, carrying Caribbean families to the UK to help fill post-war labour shortages. Picture date: Thursday June 22, 2023.
The Windrush flag flies over Liverpool Town Hall

The then prime minister Theresa May later apologised and an inquiry led to the establishment of a compensation scheme for victims.

However, the government has been criticised for being slow to pay out, amid claims the process places an unfair burden of proof on claimants.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch called for the Home Office to hand over control of the “hostile” scheme to an independent body instead.

Labour MP Dawn Butler said on Thursday that many were still “in limbo” and accused ministers of not caring about the fate of victims.

She told Sky News: “I think the government strategy is to wait for people to die. I think they want people to die.

“We’re talking about pensioners, in their 70s and 80s, waiting to be compensated for the life that was taken away from them – and this government is dragging their feet.”

Read more:
The descendants of the Windrush generation who changed Britain
Britain has made progress on race but more must be done, Windrush report finds
One of only two living Windrush passengers recounts voyage on 75th anniversary

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The culinary cultural impact of the Windrush generation

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has also been criticised for dropping three of 30 recommendations from the inquiry’s report.

But the Home Office has rejected the criticism and insists it is “absolutely committed to righting the wrongs of the Windrush scandal”.

So far £75m compensation has been offered to victims, with £62.7m paid out, according to latest official figures for May.

Minsters say there is no time limit or cap for the scheme.

The government said Thursday’s procession in Brixton was one of 45 community projects, including a series of commemorative cricket matches in Sheffield, funded by its £750,000 Windrush Day Grant Scheme.

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‘We brought music… we brought life’

Lee Rowley, communities minister at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said: “The events taking place today and all this week are a chance to reflect upon and recognise those who have done so much to strengthen the life of our nation.”

Last week the King and Queen met with 10 Windrush pioneers at Buckingham Palace to celebrate a series of portraits marking the 75th anniversary.

A new commemorative 50p Windrush coin was also unveiled by the Royal Mint earlier this week.

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