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    Windrush: Britons Asked to ‘Prove They are Worthy of Citizenship’

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    British Citizens of the Commonwealth have faced neglect due to a ‘hostile environment’ policy implemented by the British Government to tackle immigration. We spoke with Dr. William Ackah, lecturer in Community Studies at Birbeck in London, about how much of this is racism, and how much is just poor planning by the government.

    Sputnik: What's going on with the Windrush Scandal, does it constitute racism in the British Government?

    Dr. William Ackah: The government is just kind of compounding insensitivities by destroying documents and not really fully coming clean on what they've done, in terms of how they have treated this group of people.

    I think when you put it into the broader context in terms of the government's whole policy of immigration over a number of years, I think one could quite confidently say that it does have a racialized dynamic to it. When you think about how the Windrush Generation were brought over to Britain to be a labor force, when they're needed as a labor force, they get treated in a certain way, and then when they're no longer perceived to be needed then they get discriminated and treated in very negative ways. I would say that is a very strongly racialized dynamic.

    Sputnik: Is a ‘hostile environment' policy an effective way to combat concerns of immigration?

    Dr. William Ackah: Britain needs to review its immigration policies so that they are non-discriminatory. There needs to be a much broader discussion on how Britain has treated its minority population. I have noticed how there has not really been any real sense that they are going to compensate the people for the hardships that they have suffered as a result of this travesty. And then even thinking about it more broadly, in the ‘hostile environment', I would say that that hasn't just been around immigration. In the same sphere, we are looking at the anniversary of the death of Steven Lawrence, which then goes into a much longer history of institutionalized racism, which Britain has never really fully come to terms with or addressed. It is that context which then leads to the disgraceful decisions that you get around immigration. If you didn't have that broader context of institutionalized racism, then these policy failures wouldn't be happening.

    Sputnik: Could this case affect the way people view Britain from the outside?

    Dr. William Ackah: Going forwards yes, with what's happening with Britain exiting the European Union, this may make other groups think about Britain's immigration policies — that you can't, in a sense, trust the British Government. It might be one policy one day, where they are very welcoming, saying 'come over and our policies will be welcoming and supportive of you'. But then in ten years' time, the political wind changes and you can be treated very unfavorably. So, that could well make people wary. But I'd say that for that generation of Caribbean migrants, and other migrants of color, that wariness has always been there. People came to Britain in good faith, to work and make a contribution to the society, and over a long period of time, were treated with hostility. People had to fight then for their rights to be citizens. Having fought for their rights, having fought racism, having fought discrimination, having made such a contribution to society, then to be told 'you still don't belong'. They are being asked to prove that they are worthy of British citizenship, I think that is quite disgraceful.

    The opinions expressed are those of speaker alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik News.

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