hero of the week: the grime artist who took on the tories over windrush
Marci Phonix wore a “No Blacks No Dogs No Irish” hoodie as he challenged a conservative MP on the deportation of British Caribbeans.
What they did: Marci went on Channel 4 News to debate the appalling treatment of British Caribbeans known as the Windrush Generation by the UK government, who have destroyed their records, refused to issue them passports, refused NHS care, and detained and possibly deported a number of them. Marci wore a hoodie emblazoned with the infamous racist text of signs that hung outside of businesses during the period when the Windrush migrants arrived: “No Blacks No Dogs No Irish.” He gave an impassioned and powerful response to Kwasi Kwarteng, a black Tory MP sent to repeat the claim that the government “don’t even know what’s been happening. We don’t know how many have been forcibly deported.”
“You should know,” Marci said. “We do know. We definitely do know the numbers.” To which Kwasi responded that he didn’t know, and making the extraordinary claim that, “there’s no evidence for this having happened,” before accusing Marci of trying to “play politics” and “stir”. “I’m not a politician,” Marci responded, “I’m speaking for all the people who come from where I come from… I can’t do politics with you, because I’m not a politician, however, I can speak for my people and where we come from, and what I will say to this is: mate, you’re talking nonsense, you know you’re talking nonsense, because they would keep record of every single person they deported. The numbers are there, we don’t have the numbers, you do, and that’s the end of it mate.”
Tell me more: Members of the Windrush Generation are Caribbeans who emigrated to the UK to take up an offer of work and British citizenship from the British Government, who sought to plug workforce shortages and rebuild the country after World War II. The Windrush Generation are so-called after the boat they travelled to the UK on, HMT Empire Windrush.
Why it matters: Since instituting a ‘Hostile Environment’ policy for undocumented migrants while she was home secretary, Theresa May’s government have been telling these people -- who have British citizenship, and are definitely here legally -- that they are in fact illegal immigrants. As such, people have lost their homes; they have been told they are not allowed to work; they’ve had their benefits stopped; have been refused NHS cancer care; and have been terrorised by threats of deportation.
“I was scared; my kids were scared. The worst was that there was no money. I had to go out on the street, asking people for money for electricity. It was very, very degrading,” Trevor Johnson, who arrived in the UK in 1971 at the age of 10, told the Guardian. His brother Desmond, who arrived with him, travelled to Jamaica in 2001 to attend their dad’s funeral and to support their mum. Desmond was not allowed back into the UK, and has therefore not seen his daughter in 16 years.
What effect it is having: Pressure has mounted on the British government to recognise the legal citizenship of the Windrush Generation. Black British Labour MPs Diane Abbott, David Lammy and Dawn Butler have been vocal about seeking justice for the group. And exposés about the savage way Home Secretary Amber Rudd planned to remove those considered to be ‘illegal immigrants’ have highlighted a disaster the government created for itself.
While many have called for the resignation of both Rudd and May, the Home Secretary announced in Parliament yesterday that the government will waive the citizenship fee and the requirement to pass the citizenship test for anyone from the Windrush Generation “who wishes to apply”, and that they will waive the fee for the naturalisation process. David Lammy points out, however, that the Windrush Generation shouldn’t have to apply, because they have been British citizens since they landed. Rudd confirmed there would be a compensation scheme for people who have “suffered loss”, but did not say what it would cover.