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Full Citizenship for the Windrush Generation: What’s the Delay?

by John Brian Shannon

In 1948 during a time of labour shortages in the immediate postwar era, 492 Jamaican citizens (many of them children travelling with their parents) were permitted to board the Royal Navy troop ship HMT Empire Windrush to travel to Britain for the purpose of employment and residency.

At the time, they were promised eventual citizenship if they chose to stay in Britain and contribute to British society, or they could work for a time and return to their home country with some cash in their pocket. Their choice.

Since 1948, hundreds of thousands of ‘Afro-Caribbean’ people travelled to Britain to work and to live, contributing much to the country it must be said.

Many found work in the Royal Navy, in the National Health Service (NHS) and in other sectors of the economy during a time of unprecedented GDP growth and record low unemployment.


The 1971 Immigration Act

In 1971, a new law was passed by the UK House of Commons that limited the ability of people from Commonwealth countries to live and work in the United Kingdom — therefore, those people who’ve relocated to the UK since 1971 have done so under very specific legal terms and conditions and are not considered part of the Windrush Generation.

The 1971 Immigration Act stipulated that those from Commonwealth countries already living in the United Kingdom were granted the right to continue living in the UK indefinitely, but henceforth, new immigrants from the Commonwealth were required to have 1) a work permit and 2) prove that a parent or grandparent had been born in the UK. — BBC News

Anyway, back to those who moved from Commonwealth countries to Britain during the 1948-1971 timeframe.

After contributing greatly to Britain in the postwar era and raising their British-born children and grandchildren in the UK and all of it done on the strength of a verbal promise by Britain’s government, some of them are having problems accessing government services, others have been threatened with deportation, (and yes, hard to believe) some have been incarcerated until their case was eventually adjudicated by faceless bureaucrats in the Home Office whose final decisions weren’t open to appeal.

Most of the Windrush Generation weren’t given any kind of documentation to prove their status in Britain in 1948-1971 and it seems that the Home Office won’t let them stay unless they can produce documentation to prove they’re legally in the country! Facepalm!

It almost seems like a spoof episode entitled, The Three Stooges: Bureaucrats on Acid.


How to Fix This Debacle?

Obviously, these people possess a birth certificate from their home country or they can access a copy of their birth certificate from their country of origin — and if they were born in a Commonwealth country and emigrated to Britain between 1948 and 1971 they should automatically qualify for British citizenship, have the same rights as any other British citizen, and be able to access the same government services as any British citizen.

Further, some might be owed an apology from the government for delays, arbitrary or wholly unfair Home Office decisions — and financial compensation should be paid in cases where disrespect or outright racism was displayed by Home Office employees.

Windrush people who have been seriously inconvenienced by Home Office staff (either deported or incarcerated for not being able to produce the paperwork that had never been issued by the Home Office in the first place) should expect to receive a payment from the government in the most egregious cases. But there needs to be a maximum cap on the amount paid per individual of £50,000 and the individual would need to sign documentation waiving any right to civil litigation on such matters against the Home Office or other departments of the government.


Children of Windrush

Any children born in Britain to the Windrush Generation are already British citizens, but if born outside the UK (obviously) are citizens of the country in which they were born — although their naturalized UK parents should be able to easily apply for them to become UK citizens at any future date.


Non-Windrush Generation Immigrants

Any non-UK citizen who wishes to live, work, go to school, or retire in the UK should be required to supply an up-to-date criminal records check from their home country with their initial application and pay £100 per year for the privilege of living in the UK, and supply their up-to-date phone number and home address to the Home Office via an easy-to-understand and easy-to-pay website that should take each individual less than 10-minutes per year to complete.

Windrush Generation people and their UK-born or UK-naturalized children would, of course, be completely exempt from such requirements and should henceforth be treated the same as any other British citizen.

Thank you again to the Windrush Generation for their work in building the United Kingdom that we see today. Well done!

Streamlining Towards Brexit

by John Brian Shannon

Time is running down on the Brexit clock (399 days and counting!) and the default path seems the only way that will allow a smooth and orderly Brexit in any sort of timeframe that could be construed as reasonable to British voters.

If the UK government chooses to simply photocopy existing EU trade regulations and then change those laws incrementally over a period of years, the UK should rightly expect to be invited by the European Union to continue their mutually beneficial trade relationship.

After all, how could the EU possibly be upset that the UK will voluntarily continue to follow European Union trade regulations in the pre-Brexit period?

However, this implies that until Brexit actually occurs, the UK will be obligated to consult with the EU on every incremental change made on those photocopied laws and regulations from now until the UK officially leaves the European Union on March 29, 2019. It’s not about polite diplomatic behavior, it’s about pragmatic self-interest.

The UK must begin today to re-prove that it intends — in all cases — to be a fair and reliable trading partner with the EU, and other countries are sure to be watching as this process unfolds. No amount of effort can be spared in this regard, because as so goes the UK trading relationship with the EU, so it will go between Britain and every other country in the world, after Brexit.


Trade After Brexit

Once March 29, 2019 has passed and the UK has officially left the European Union there will be no longer be any requirement for lengthy consultations with the EU on changes to British trade laws or regulations far in advance of them coming into effect.

That doesn’t mean that the UK shouldn’t continue to consult with the EU, it means that it doesn’t need to consult with the EU during the entire policy formation period. But once UK policy has been decided, the EU should continue to be the first to know about pending changes due to the bloc’s importance to the British economy.

As above, no effort should be spared in showing the EU every possible courtesy on even the most incremental of trade policy adjustments under consideration in the pre-Brexit timeframe.

And in the post-Brexit timeframe, a high level of communication and consultation must continue to define the relationship between the two sides.


Customs Law After Brexit

Unlike trade, the present customs union will end the day after Brexit which will be a very positive thing for the UK. After Brexit, the UK alone will be fully in charge of who can and can’t enter the country, and it should mount a Herculean effort now to identify and locate every single foreigner in the country, matching them to their home and workplace (or school) address.

Every non-British born resident in the country should be required to pay 100 pounds sterling per year, and also be required to provide their updated home and work/school address as often as it changes, no matter which country they originally hailed from. It’s the 21st century(!) all of this can be done on a UK.gov webform in less than 10 minutes per year.

Especially for those foreigners living in the United Kingdom anytime prior to Brexit day, the UK government should make the entire process as streamlined as possible.


Commonwealth Nations in the post-Brexit Timeframe

As the UK returns to its Commonwealth roots, immigration to the UK should thenceforth be sourced from Commonwealth nations.

Of course, there will always be a number of immigrants from the EU, America, and other countries. But as much as possible, the focus should be on the ‘all for one and one for all’ approach of Commonwealth nations — and one great way to keep that viable is by sourcing 2/3rds of the UK’s immigration requirements from the Commonwealth.


In addition, the UK should continue to spend .7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid — but spend it in Commonwealth nations exclusively.

This means that the British government must find other nations to take over its existing foreign aid commitments in non-Commonwealth nations so that Britain can concentrate on building a better Commonwealth.

Done right, every pound sterling spent in Commonwealth foreign aid should return a minimum of two pounds sterling to the UK, as a rising tide in a finite environment like the Commonwealth will lift all boats, which is quite unlike spending that same amount of foreign aid in the wider world.

One example of how Britain could benefit in the post-Brexit timeframe with a policy that favours Commonwealth nations is that UK universities, colleges and trade schools should see a vast increase in enrollment from the 2 billion citizens of Commonwealth nations.


Time is Tight

Although Brexit once seemed far-off, time is getting a little tight. Much needs to be accomplished in the remaining 399 days until Brexit.

The best way to do that is to harmonize UK trade law with EU trade law and then make incremental changes over time. That’s how not to lose.

How to win is to engage with Commonwealth nations as never before in ways that work to benefit both the United Kingdom and every Commonwealth member nation.

Keeping our EU friendships healthy on the one hand while updating our Commonwealth friendships for the 21st century on the other hand, is irrevocably in Britain’s best interests, thereby creating a new paradigm that will allow the UK to work to its strengths over the next 100 years.

The Problem with Immigration

by John Brian Shannon

Immigration policy continues to appear in British headlines and excessive annual immigration loads in the UK are cited by many citizens as one of the main reasons Britons voted to Brexit the European Union.

Immigration has been a factor in Britain going all the way back to Roman times, and without it the United Kingdom wouldn’t be the thriving country it is today.

As with so many things in life it’s all about balance. The other important factor in this discussion is the implementation of immigration policy.


Some Immigration Stats for You

Britain has a population of 66 million people and it received 650,000 economic migrants and refugees in 2016 alone. Yes, it’s like that every year. Of course, people in favour of higher immigration levels will always refer you to the net migration number, which was 335,000 in 2016.

Immigration to the UK for year ending June 2016. Image courtesy of the Office for National Statistics.

Immigration to Britain for year ending June 2016. UK Office for National Statistics.

Regardless of how you choose to calculate UK immigration, millions of Britons have a negative view on the topic and blame scarce jobs, higher infrastructure costs, longer wait times for government services and higher taxes on unprecedented immigration.

High numbers of migrants aside, the UK economy continues to grow and companies are making better profit due to the lower wages paid to immigrant workers.

No economist on the planet will dispute these two points; Higher immigration results in improved corporate profit and growing GDP.

Although it needs to be said that the economy can still grow with lower or even zero immigration when government economic policy is perfect and all the stars are aligned.

By now you’re concluding that high immigration loads are the lazy politicians way of improving the annual GDP statistic, increasing corporate profits, and (probably) increasing donations to their political party. Yes, every economist agrees with you.


Your Economic Status Determines Your Worldview

If increased profits for companies, higher GDP, and donations to your political party are all that matter to you — you’ve hit a home-run! as they say in America. Congrats to you.

Others disagree and cite quality of life issues — real life problems like increased unemployment among native Britons, longer wait times for government services, and the higher personal taxes that pay for the rapidly growing infrastructure required to sustain increased demand.

Your view no doubt, depends on which side of the unemployment line you’re standing on and your tolerance for higher taxes.

It’s easy to see where all this is heading in a decade or two; Those who view immigration negatively will join new, right-wing, anti-immigrant parties similar in concept to Germany’s nationalist AfD party, while big business and (some) politicians will morph towards Trump-style politics — resulting in a quantum shift to the right of the political spectrum among a majority of voters (but very important to note here) that shift will split between many factions.

And isn’t that exactly what has recently happened in Germany, Hungary, Austria, Poland and America?


Is Multiculturalism a Failure, or is Implementation to Blame?

It’s interesting to note that Canada has maintained a multicultural policy since the late 1960’s and that it’s been an astonishing success story with few Canadian detractors.

Led by former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, multiculturalism was sold to Canadians as a silver bullet to;

1) fix a falling Canadian birthrate,
2) to increase aggregate demand in the economy,
3) to attract the highly skilled workers that Canada desperately needed,
4) to access the low wage workers to do the jobs Canadians no longer wanted.

It was also touted to diversify the social fabric of the country and work to subsume the extremely stark (and sometimes hostile) divide between Francophones and Anglophones in eastern Canada.

The level of skepticism was high, but because multiculturalism in Canada was properly and thoroughly sold to Canadians and because it really did accomplish all that Pierre Trudeau said it would, multiculturalism succeeded across the country.

  • NOTE: Canada’s population of 36 million is augmented by 300,000 new arrivals annually, while Britain’s population of 66 million is augmented by 650,000 new arrivals per year. (Remember, these are gross total immigration numbers that have little in common with *net* migration numbers)

In recent months, Statistics Canada has reported the number of visible minorities (people from other countries and their Canadian-born offspring) living in Canada now outnumber Caucasian citizens of European descent. And nobody cares.

In Canada, the colour of your skin, your choice of religion, or your cultural bias, simply don’t matter. If you’re there to work, raise a family, and agree to abide by Canadian laws, Canadians are happy to have you along for the ride.

And in Canada émigrés tend to do what is expected of them because everything about becoming a ‘landed-immigrant’ and (after a significant probationary period) a Canadian citizen, is explained to them prior to their acceptance by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Unlike in Britain, migrants to Canada are walked through the process every step of the way and because of that, they are far more likely to understand Canadian values and Canadian culture, and are therefore more likely to assimilate well and become part of the Canadian mosaic.

The importance of informing future British citizens about what is allowed and what is expected of them cannot be underestimated — and the same importance must be attached to informing today’s British citizens how to work with new arrivals. It’s everything in this discussion.

In Canada, the federal government wanted multiculturalism to work and that’s why it worked. Full stop.


Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s taken decades for the UK to get to this point and every party represented in the House of Commons has been a part of the process. Playing the blame game is a waste of time, so let’s just focus on what’s to be done from here.

There is little Britain can do about the 9 million foreign-born residents already in the country. Of course, the argument could be made that they could all be deported to their countries of origin, but that isn’t a realistic solution to a perceived problem; “perceived” because less than half of Britons report being concerned about the number of immigrants in the country.

In 2016, the total number of foreign-born residents in the UK surpassed 9 million.

In 2016, the total number of foreign-born residents in the UK surpassed 9 million. UK Office for National Statistics.

‘Scofflaws Not Welcome’

Some have made the case that UK expats convicted of any crime more serious than a parking ticket should be deported to their country of origin, forthwith. There are plenty of people already breaking laws in the United Kingdom, the country shouldn’t be importing more of them!

And at an annual cost of £110,000 per year/per prisoner to incarcerate lawbreakers, Britain could save itself millions of pounds sterling annually for the cost of a few hundred airline tickets. Doing so would set a precedent, the kind of precedent that gets noticed for all the right reasons, and work to a) convince certain types to not relocate to the UK in the first place, or b) convince those already in the UK and considering committing crimes to choose an alternate lifestyle — either way, it’s a win-win for Britain.

Foreign Resident Tax

Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated that foreigners living in the UK will be paying an annual fee to help pay a tiny portion of the infrastructure, services, and security costs on a per capita basis — likely around £100 per year, per expat. The PM in a recent PMQ period mentioned the fee would be “about the cost of a passport” but would be due on an annual basis.

Post-Brexit Immigration Policy

One great thing about Brexit is the government will be able to choose its own immigration policy.

Britain should cap total immigration at 200,000 per year, but it should favour highly skilled individuals from the Commonwealth and America who should be moved to the front of the line.

If there are any additional spaces to fill, then and only then should Britain consider allowing people from other countries to migrate to the United Kingdom.

Better Multiculturalism Guidance for both Immigrants and Citizens Going Forward

Proper guidance to help prospective immigrants choose whether Britain really is the country for them, whether they are willing to live by the laws and (Western) culture of Britain, and guidance on how to integrate into British society would smooth the path for migrants and citizens alike.

It’s not only new arrivals that need guidance. A bit of knowledge, understanding and sensitivity can go a long way to keep small irritations small, rather than to have them burst into the media spotlight in a way that makes all sides look mean-spirited, uncultured and uneducated.

Canada has a verifiable track record of success in helping both their new arrivals and their citizens to get along together and keep them focused on working for the good of the country and its goals.

If the Home Office hired one experienced Canadian multiculturalism / immigration officer per UK immigration office location (as an advisor) it could make the difference between a successful immigration policy and a failed immigration policy.

And that Canadian multicultural officer should assist in cases involving both new arrivals to the UK and long-time expats with unresolved issues.


Summary

Brexit affords the United Kingdom the opportunity to start with a clean sheet and design any immigration policy it chooses.

Incorporating some Canadian success seems appropriate, as does deporting criminal expats within a fortnight.

And an expat tax reminds expats it’s their privilege not their divine right to live in the United Kingdom — although if they’re contributing to the good of the country about as well as anyone else, the UK government and its people should be respectful of their commitment.


Related Articles:

  • Canadians in the Dark About Immigration: Survey (Ottawa Citizen)
  • Canadians Increasingly Comfortable with Diversity: Survey (Ottawa Citizen)
  • CBC’s The National – report on the Changing Face of Canada (CBC TV News)
  • Canada immigration explained: Answers to 9 common questions (CBC TV News)