A Windrush Immigrant
They came here as children, attended British schools, worked British jobs and built British lives. Now thousands of people who arrived in the UK decades ago – in the first wave of Commonwealth immigration in the 1950s and 60s – are living under the threat of deportation. Many of them arrived on a ship called The Empire Windrush and they are known as The Windrush Generation.
A friend of mine's parents came to the UK in the late fifties encouraged by the British government to fill jobs due to a mass dip in the male generation that were lost in World War 2. Leroy and Nerma Nelson saw this as a great opportunity and expected to be welcomed to their new home.
Although they were helping to grow the economy things weren't easy for them. The fierce patriotism that was needed to bind the country during the second world war turned to aggressive nationalism in the following decades.
Leroy's son Mike, a good mate of mine told me 'Mum and dad firstly settled in Sheffield and trained as a bus driver to make ends meet. He was a qualified electrician and eventually got a job within his trade. As you can image back in the late 50s, a black man was rare.He told me he struggled getting accommodation back then. Signs on the doors saying No Blacks or Irish.
He finally found a white lady who took pity on him and rented him a room, on the condition he couldn’t use the front door, so he had to use the ally way round the back. He stayed in Huddersfield for a couple years before realising there was a larger population of black people in Manchester, so he moved to be with people of his own.
Although these people were invited by the government at the time to come to the country and work in many of the empty public sector jobs, they were never integrated into society, many of them were not given official papers or passports.
In 2012 the then Home secretary Theresa May introduced a programme to create a 'Hostile Environment for IIlegal Immigrants' using extreme tactics and the strong arm of the British right wing media to encourage people to report anyone they suspected of being an illegal immigrant.
Now many of the Windrush Generation, although they came to the UK on perfectly legitimate motives and by invitation, recalled that they didn't have the correct papers and have lived in fear of deportation ever since, many of them not returning to the Caribbean to visit their families in case they were not let back into the UK.
Theresa May became Prime Minister in 2016 and controversially pushed forward with this purge even though she knew the plight of the Windrush Generation, many of which were separated from their families and detained.
Finally this scandal has been picked up by the media and has shamed May into offering an apology and compensation.
Leroy Noah Nelson passed away 13 years ago, his son Mike recently asked for a tribute portrait of him, here it is...
Me and Mike, our wives and my sister