As a result of World War II losses, the British government began encouraging mass immigration from its Empire & Commonwealth to fill shortages in the labour market – the kind of jobs slightly-thoughtless people may label as ones which ‘no one else would want to take’. But take they did. The British Nationality Act 1948 gave the right of entry and settlement, and citizenship, to all people living in the UK and its colonies.
They worked, raised families, engaged in our culture and introduced their own.
It was recently revealed that, in June 2009, the UK Border Agency disposed of paper records, including refugee status cards. Though Theresa May, currently Prime Minister of the UK, acknowledged she was Home Secretary at the time, she denied involvement or any knowledge. In the last six months, reports started to stack up: the Home Office had been threatening the children of Commonwealth immigrants with deportation if they could not prove their rights to remain, and Amber Rudd, Home Secretary at the time (until forced to resign very recently), had layered lies revealed, one by one.
It has become known as the Windrush Scandal.
I picked up a copy of The Big Issue yesterday from a lovely, nervous man at the top of a staircase leading out from London’s Victoria Station. He was playing classical music and, on a day where a cold had hit my head like a truck, I found myself doubling back and asking to buy a copy, expressing my gratitude that he wasn’t some indie busker screaming at me.
Inside, there was a short, simple article by John Bird, Founder & Editor-in-Chief of the Big Issue.
The article spoke simply of humanity, a cascading set of examples of people John knew, people he had lived with and been supported by, who would have been directly affected should deportation have been allowed by the public and its media to become a real threat. The sentiment was simple:
- that we are all the same creatures;
- that the differences we do find only build on British culture (& it’s a choice, by the way, whether we see it as such – one we should all aspire to make);
- that we owe these people a great debt, before and right now;
- and that our anchor in this scenario, those of us who feel compassionate and concerned about the recent events, where politicians claim they had nothing to do with the tumbling narrative of cruel decisions, therefore no one is held accountable and we can expect similar disasters to occur again, is to keep telling the right stories.
Adopting a recent favourite of mine, the blackout art technique of Austin Kleon, I whipped through the article and tried my best to represent these same pieces of sentiment. Think of it as a big word search.
My favourite was on the bottom-right of the page:
Stories change and die with us. Hand out the paper; make them feel our world.
Always look for the stories from the people themselves, and help them stand out.