On the mantelpiece in my grandparents’ sitting room when I was growing up, there was a model of the Empire Windrush, the vessel that brought 500 people from the Caribbean to Britain in 1948.
Its arrival at Tilbury Docks marked the start of a wave of Caribbean immigration here that lasted until 1971.
My father’s parents were among nearly half a million people who came in the ensuing years – the so-called Windrush Generation.
Grandma was so proud of that little model. It symbolised a new life for her and her family. They were good, hard-working people who instilled their work ethic in my Dad and then in me. I owe them such a lot.
Calvin Robinson, pictured, said when he was growing up there was a model of the Empire Windrush on the mantelpiece of his grandparent's sitting room
The Empire Windrush, the vessel that brought 500 people from the Caribbean to Britain in 1948 and started a wave of immigration that lasted until 1971
Sadly, in 2017, details began to emerge of a scandal in which hundreds of innocent Commonwealth citizens who were entitled to live and work here – many of them members of the Windrush Generation – had been wrongly detained by the Home Office, deported and denied legal representation.
These were people, like my grandparents, who made an enormous contribution to our country, taking jobs in the NHS and other sectors that were suffering in the acute labour shortages of the post-war years.
Their treatment was, as the Home Secretary Priti Patel said this week, ‘a stain on our country’s history’ and shamed successive governments who presided over a flawed immigration system.
So it makes my blood absolutely boil when I hear self-serving, virtue-signalling celebrities invoking the Windrush scandal in an attempt to stop the deportation of criminals, including child rapists and murderers.
As the Mail has reported this week, 82 leading figures from the black community were signatories to an open letter of demands sent to six airlines, protesting against the deportation of 50 Jamaican criminals back to the Caribbean. Supermodel Naomi Campbell, actress Naomie Harris, and TV historian David Olusoga were among those who, by signing the letter, in my view, have shamelessly and offensively linked innocent Windrush pioneers who have every right to be in Britain with individuals convicted of horrendous crimes.
Priti Patel said the treatment of the Windrush people who were wrongly deported was ‘a stain on our country’s history’ and shamed successive governments who presided over a flawed immigration system
One of the men scheduled for deportation, Michael Antonio White, is a convicted murderer who shot his victim six times at close range after a drug deal went wrong.
And one raped a drunken woman who was asleep on a sofa.
Not one of them is a British citizen – all were born in Jamaica. Yet on Wednesday, in the wake of the celebrity outcry, they were among 23 criminals taken off the passenger list, pending more legal arguments.
I am disgusted that they could be named in the same breath as the Windrush Generation. Yet the deluded, pretentious signatories couldn’t help themselves: ‘Windrush Generation members or Windrush descendants’ might face deportation, they bleated.
It is an outrageous claim and besmirches the legacy of my grandparents and thousands like them to score a cheap political point.
But in making it, they have backed themselves into a ludicrous position in which they are in effect pleading for vicious criminals to receive special treatment. In doing so they are undermining the very cause they profess to support and are making it harder for ordinary people to stand up to real racism.
Labour politicians have been no less quick to drag Windrush into the debate. The shadow minister for immigration Holly Lynch mentioned the ship ten times in one question, as she too implied that some of the criminals could be ‘affected by the wider injustices that impacted the victims of the Windrush scandal’.
Who in their right mind would not want their country to be rid of murderous thugs? We have every right to protect ourselves and our children. What nobody has any right to do is traduce the memory of Windrush pioneers like my grandparents who brought so much good to Britain.