CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Why no alarm bells as Caribbean Britons were hounded?

24 April, 2018

Michael Braithwaite, who was sacked by Gospel Oak Primary School as a teaching assistant

THE scandal affecting the Windrush generation is seeping into the sinews of society.

It isn’t only families who came here in the 1950s from the Caribbean and India who are affected. It also reaches out to the National Health Service where patients are being denied treatment unless they have documentary proof of their immigration status.

Patients are now being investigated – and sometimes turned away – by hospitals, including the famous Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, as well as by medical practitioners in the capital.

Hundreds of doctors – organised in a body known as Docs Not Cops – are campaigning against it.

Two politicians should bear the guilt – Theresa May, who encouraged the “hostile environment” for immigrants as Home Secretary in 2014. And Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who instructed NHS England last autumn to introduce passport checks on patients.

Behind it lies the rise of racialism spawned partly by Brexit and partly by Tory in-fighting against UKIP.

One of the most impassioned speeches in the Commons by David Lammy MP this week laid bare the problem, though he was not applauded by his fellow Labour MPs unlike those who clapped Margaret Hodge and other MPs criticising anti-semitism in the party.

But if politicians are responsible for the policies it is the administrators – the pen-pushers – who have been carrying them out. And here we come to the moral responsibility of those who execute orders from above.

In the case of Michael Braithwaite, who was sacked by Gospel Oak Primary School as a teaching assistant it now transpires the school had contracted Islington Schools HR to advise them on employees and it was they who “advised” the school to dismiss him which the school, apparently, readily did.

It is true heavy government fines would have faced the school if it had said, “No”.

But all signs suggest the school did not ring public alarm bells. It seems it neither involved the local MP, Keir Starmer, nor the Labour council. In a mealy-mouthed statement issued by Islington Council, reference is made to the “heavy penalties” for those employing someone who does not have “the right to work”. It welcomes a change “in legislation”. But changes are brought about by public debate and, sometimes, acts of rebellion, not by meek compliance, the cowardly way.

The fact is that the hounding of Caribbeans in the past four years was becoming part of the nation’s “secret” history until the Guardian’s reporter Amelia Gentleman exposed it recently. Even now few headlines record the stories of patients turned away from hospitals.

But the gates opened by the Windrush scandal, hopefully, cannot now be closed.

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