Topic of the Day – Windrush Generation

UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – Windrush Generation

This is a topic that comes under international relations and particularly bilateral relations of India with the United Kingdom. So, this is important for the UPSC exam. Aspirants are expected to understand the terms and concepts frequently seen in news for the IAS exam.

“Windrush generation” is a term used for labeling those who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries. It is in reference to the ship MV Empire Windrush, that arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex, on the 22nd of June 1948, bringing workers from Tobago, Trinidad and Jamaica and other islands, as a response to post-war labour shortages in the UK. Along with others from the Commonwealth, they and their families were encouraged to move to Britain to help meet acute labour shortages, whether in the National Health Service (NHS) or beyond.

It is, however, not clear, as to the number of people who belong to the Windrush generation, since many of those who arrived as children travelled on their parents’ passports and never applied for travel documents. Their number is thought to be in the thousands.

1971 Immigration Act

  • With the enactment of the 1971 Immigration Act, the influx ended.
  • Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain.
  • After this, a British passport-holder born overseas could only settle in the UK if they had a work permit and could prove that a parent or grandparent had been born in the United Kingdom.

India’s Plight

  • Indians are among those caught up in the Windrush controversy.
  • Those from India, Pakistan, West Africa and other parts of the Commonwealth are also facing the same plight as many from the Caribbean.
  • According to the Oxford Migration Observatory, an estimated 57,000 non-U.K. nationals arrived in Britain before 1971, including 13,000 from India, 15000 from Jamaica and others. Many may have had documentation to demonstrate their status and therefore did not have to face the difficulties of the Windrush generation.
  • Recently, it emerged that at least a hundred, and potentially more, Indian doctors who had been recruited by NHS trusts up and down the country to fill sorely needed positions, mostly in emergency medicine, had been unable to take up their positions because of the visa issues.
  • This is being used to deny IT, professionals, doctors and others long resident in the U.K. the indefinite leave to remain because of minor errors in their tax returns. Hundreds are believed to be impacted.

Foreign Students Deportation

  • For many years, the British government has been attempting to deport foreign students (and others) based on allegations that they had committed fraud to obtain the English-language qualifications to stay in the U.K.
  • A BBC investigation found evidence of fraud at one testing center, thousands who had gained their qualification via that route at different test centers were also accused of fraud.
  • The chair of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union U.K., which has been campaigning on behalf students who have faced accusations of fraud believes a “significant population” from India has been impacted. The burden of proof and blame was swiftly placed on the shoulders of the students rather than the Home Office-approved system that had allowed the fraud to happen.

Issues Associated

  • Under a toughening immigration regime, and bureaucratic mess-ups that resulted in documentation being lost, many of these men and women have begun to be penalized for failing to have the right documentation and are being treated as illegal immigrants.
  • Some have been unable to work, others have been denied health care, while still others have been unable to return to Britain following trips overseas.
  • While most of the cases that have come to light apply to Caribbean citizens, there have been warnings that citizens from across the Commonwealth were likely to be impacted.


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