A number of Bangladeshis who migrated to the UK as Commonwealth citizens prior to 1973 are among the group of migrants caught up in the ongoing Windrush scandal that has shaken up the UK government in recent weeks.
The scandal resulted in the UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, being forced to resign after weeks of trying to curtail the crisis. The issue centres around thousands of UK-based Jamaicans facing forced deportations due to a lack of documentary evidence that they had the right to live and work in Britain because they arrived before 1973, when stricter new visa norms came into force for all Commonwealth nationals migrating to the UK.
“The same issues could have an impact on other Commonwealth citizens, perhaps people such as my parents and others from South Asia who settled in this country. I am aware that this could be the case and I intend to look at that carefully,” Sajid Javid, the newly-appointed Home Secretary, told the House of Commons soon after taking charge of his new ministerial portfolio.
According to the UK’s Migration Observatory based at University of Oxford, approximately 57,000 people born in Commonwealth countries who have lived in the UK since 1970 or earlier are not documented as UK nationals. Within that figure, it identifies an estimated 15,000 Jamaicans, 13,000 Indians and 29,000 “others”, which include Bangladeshis, who are non-UK nationals.
“The Windrush generation refers to citizens of former British colonies who arrived before 1973, when the rights of such Commonwealth citizens to live and work in Britain were substantially curtailed. While a large proportion of them were of Jamaican/Caribbean descent, they also included other South Asians,” said Rob McNeil, Deputy Director of the Migration Observatory.
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“There is a possibility that some of them may be affected by similar issues to those being faced by some Jamaican migrants, but our analysis is based on very approximate figures,” he said.
The group referred to as the “Windrush generation” relates to a ship named Windrush, which brought many of these Jamaican workers to UK shores in 1948. The scandal emerged as many who arrived as children around that period were struggling to access state services or even threatened with deportation because they did not possess any documents to prove they arrived before 1973.
One of those affected is Azad Miah, who arrived in Britain with his family aged six, in 1972. It was only four years ago, when he tried to organize his wife’s burial in his home country of Bangladesh, that he realized he did not have the proper biometric residency permit. The Bangladesh passport holder was told that he may not be able to re-enter the UK if he left on the basis of an old UK residency stamp. This also affected his right to work in the country and he has been struggling ever since.
As soon as the 52-year-old heard about the Windrush scandal, he realized his rights and called the UK Home Office.
“Getting it sorted means the stress will go, but I should never have been put through it all in the first place,” he said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has issue a formal apology in Parliament to the so-called "Windrush generation" and the UK Home Office, under then minister Amber Rudd, announced a new taskforce to fast-track cases such as Miah’s towards citizenship free of cost.
“The offer, which will be available to people from all Commonwealth countries, not just Caribbean nationals, will extend to individuals who have no current documentation, those who already have leave to remain and want to advance their status, and children of the Windrush generation,” the Home Office statement noted.
A compensation scheme has also been set up for individuals who suffered “loss or damage” because of their inability to evidence their right to be in the UK and to access services.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com