Police forces used to have a minimum height requirement. The stipulation made no mention of sex or gender. But it meant that fewer women could qualify to enter the force than men. So was that rule discriminatory?
Amelia with tutor, Dr Jane Garnett and Wadham Warden, Ken Macdonald QC
Talking to Wadham alumni, in conversation with her former tutor Jane Garnett at the 2019 Circles’ Event for donors to Wadham, Amelia Gentleman (Russian and History, 1991) described how the breaking of the Windrush Scandal came about.
“The most powerful way of making people realise there is a problem is by doing detailed interviews with those people affected,” said Amelia.
At the end of 2017 she received an email from a small charity in Wolverhampton who asked her to look at the case of someone they were trying to help – Paulette Wilson, a grandmother who had lived in Britain for over fifty years and had even worked in the House of Commons for a while as a catering assistant. Paulette had been sent to an immigration removal centre to be deported to Jamaica, a country she had not visited since the age of ten.
“At first it was not obvious that this was anything but a very peculiar anomaly”, said Amelia, but after the publication of a story about Paulette in The Guardian in 2017 it became obvious from emails and phone calls that she was not the only person who had received that kind of treatment.
It was after talking to a man in a similar position, who did not seemed outraged by what was happening to him because he knew of half a dozen others in the same situation, that it became clear that there was a much bigger, systemic problem.
The surprise for Amelia was that none of the MPs, law centres or charities that she contacted were able to explain what was happening or how widespread it was.
“What do we want our immigration system to look like – do we think it is right to deport people who have lived in this country all their lives?"
While Amelia was was hearing about serious problems from people who had lost their homes and jobs, and were being denied access to NHS care, she was finding that Government and the Home Office were refusing to acknowledge that there was a problem.
A Guardian front page story highlightling the problems eventually provoked a complete 180 degree turn by Government. “Theresa May kept apologising ‘for the anxiety caused’, as if being detained in a deportation centre for five weeks was a minor anxiety”, said Amelia. Amber Rudd’s resignation followed, leaving the Home Office feeling they had been blamed for carrying out May’s Hostile Environment Policy, regardless of its effect on individuals.
The scale of the injustice, to thousands from across the commonwealth, is still being felt and with deportation flights now underway we are being encouraged to think about some people as ‘good migrants’ and others as ‘bad migrants.’
Amelia questioned: “What do we want our immigration system to look like – do we think it is right to deport people who have lived in this country all their lives regardless of what offence they have committed?”
Commenting on how the situation has come to pass Amelia, having spoken to politicians from the left and the right commented that politicians have failed to make the case to the public that immigration is good for the country. If public opinion is that immigration is bad, then politicians need to show they are controlling it. “Another path to go down would be to say, publically and bravely, that immigration contributes ‘x’ amount to the economy and this is something we should celebrate,” she said.
Further discussions focussed on implications for Brexit, the issues around lost documents and passports and Amelia’s forthcoming book due out in Autumn, 2019.
Warden of Wadham College, Ken Macdonald QC, commented that Amelia’s writing is an example of “Journalism which makes the world a better place”, adding that Wadham is proud to have Amelia as an Honorary Fellow.
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