Windrush victims justice call

Unite delegate Susan Matthews speaks out against government's 'hostile environment'

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Unite delegate Susan Matthews gave a powerful speech in a debate on ending the government’s ‘hostile environment’ on Tuesday (September 12).

Highlighting that this year marked the 75th anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush arriving in the UK, she said the fight for Windrush victims’ compensation continues.

“We have all witnessed this government’s hostile environment on immigration that led to the Windrush scandal,” she said, emphasising how they were denied access to essential services – such as health care and housing, and employment.

“And it is still ongoing,” Susan added.

“It is important that we ensure all trade unions focus on key actions so that people receive the compensation they deserve and to hold the government to account and push to make sure the hostile environment ends and that we prevent any injustice from happening again in the future,” she continued.

“People deserve support and empathy – their lives were turned upside down – and they should not have to fight and struggle for compensation, but receive it in full.”

Susan went on to call for an independent review into the causes of the Windrush scandal and the urgent need “to take on the root cause of Windrush injustice and to build a more inclusive society”.

She said this must mean that all trade unions support Black and Asian Ethnic Minority (BAEM) workers in challenging institutional racism and discrimination, practices, policies and structures in organisations.

“Because this Government continues to spout hateful rhetoric and division,” she added.

Susan told Congress of a leading lawyer representing Windrush victims, Jacqueline McKenzie “has been subject to a smear campaign from Conservative Party HQ because of her opposition to their policies and practices”.

“They have been clear that whipping up racism against migrants is going to be part of their campaign plan for the general election,” Susan noted.

She added that the failure to ensure Windrush victims receive compensation is part and parcel of the government’s “continued encouragement of structural and systemic racism and its continued hostile environment”.

“This Government is saying ‘sorry, not sorry,’ adding more injury and injustice to the Windrush Generation who contributed so much to this country,” Susan concluded, again calling on conference to stand with Jacqueline McKenzie.

Urging conference to support the motion, Susan ended by quoting an inspiring Jimmy Cliff song to thundering applause.

The motion was carried.

By Hajera Blagg

Pic by Mark Thomas