Monday 9pm – 10pm, BBC2
The 1948 British Nationality Act was designed to permit the free movement of people from around the newly created commonwealth. It targeted bringing in the desperately needed skills to rebuild Britain after the terrible impact of World War 2. In particular, the government of the day saw the people of Canada and Australia as the ideal immigrants.
The government never expected the influx of skilled machinists, mechanics, plumbers, carpenters and other trades from Jamaica, in fact Clement Attlee described it as an “incursion”. Such was the panic 70 years ago there are many documented correspondences between government departments, all alarmed and deciding how best to deal with the situation. Perhaps one of the most shocking statements uncovered revealed that politicians feared black immigration would damage the “harmony, strength and cohesion of the nation”. Such was the discrimination at the time White Volunteer Workers from the Balkans and Germany were sought over Black people, even when some of those on that programme were ex member of SS Waffen regiments.
Yet many in modern day Britain were completely unaware of the outright racism and discrimination until 2017 when press reports uncovered many Caribbean migrants now faced deportation after living in the UK for decades legally. The Home Offices strict, targeted policy enforced by an outsourced party with targets to meet quickly became known as the ‘Windrush Scandal’. It threatened perfectly legal British citizens, some of whom were asked to produce 70 years worth of documents. Exposing the scandal, David Olusoga explores the history of the UK policy and the impact it has had on many lives. Digging through reports, official documents and eyewitnesses he calmly exposes the governments open racism, and in many cases its embarrassment of it.
David introduces us to victims of the scandal, adults who have lived nearly all their lives in Britain, brought to the UK by their parents as infants. Sarah, Anthony and Judy all became re-classified as illegal immigrants, stripped of not only their savings and entitlements as UK citizens but of their dignity and health. They all now face being deported back to countries they can barely remember. He also exposes some high profile British politicians as contributing to the issue, as far back as Winston Churchill telling the Postmaster General not to employ ‘coloured people’.
The life experiences of David lend themselves to his desire to understand the issues in the Windrush scandal, he was born in Nigeria and moved to Newcastle as a child. His house was regularly attacked by the National Front. He is regarded today as one of the UK’s foremost historians and an expert on the empire and slavery.
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