Weekly Chats: Amelia Gentleman with Charlotte Edwardes

In this week’s chats we are joined by two brilliant journalists, Amelia Gentleman & Charlotte Edwardes to discuss ‘The Windrush Betrayal’, an excellent and essential read based on Amelia’s reporting for The Guardian newspaper. The book looks at the appalling treatment, bullying & discrimination of Caribbean immigrants or ‘The Windrush Generation’ in the United Kingdom & the threat of deportation of these people who had lived in the UK since childhood. Amelia shares the many stories of people who came to the UK legally & had lived for up to 40-50 years but had no legal documentation to prove they were permitted to live in the UK. This book explores Amelia’s journalistic coverage of the issue, which led to six awards & for Amelia to be shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. It is truly an example of the power of the fourth estate & journalism as a whole in exposing injustices on an enormous scale. 

What’s in this chat:

  • Amelia on how her experience reporting on the Windrush Generation started.
  • Paulette Wilson a ‘law abiding grandmother’ in Wolverhampton who had arrived in Britain at the age of 10 & had been threatened by the government to be deported. 
  • Why was the Home Office targeting a group of people nearing retirement to be deported?
  • Theresa May & her ploy to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. 
  • The ‘outsourcing’ of doctors, landlords, bankers & regular people who became in a sense immigration control. These people were deployed to check whether people had the rights or proof to be residing in the UK for the government. 
  • “For those people who were living here legally but weren’t able to prove it, the consequences were really catastrophic. We saw these people, like Paulette Wilson, being detained, being told they were going to be deported. Other people lost their jobs, were made homeless, were refused vital NHS treatment & basically had their lives completely upended. They were unable to persuade anyone in the Home Office that a mistake had been made & actually they weren’t here illegally.”
  • The Home Office “comprehensively ignored” these people, to the extent that when there was a woman who was reporting rape, she was then questioned about her status in the UK.
  • Amelia explains why ‘The Windrush Generation’ in 1948 came to be. Opening free movement between the UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa & the Carribean. 
  • Amelia on the unique stories she reported on & the radical, horrific changes that was experienced by people of the ‘Windrush Generation’.
  • The pressure faced by landlords, business owners & doctors who had the burden of having to determine whether their tenants, employees etc were ‘illegal’.
  • Amelia on the policy of ‘who gets listened to in Britain, & who gets ignored”. 
  • Amelia on the emotions attached to reporting on the Windrush generation, with the feelings of mourning, anger, worries & despair.
  • Amelia on her reporting that led to the resignation of the then Home Secretary, Amber Rudd in 2018. 
  • Theresa May’s appalling diplomatic snub to the Carribean officials that led Amber Rudd to apologise to these people that their treatment had been very bad. 
  • Amelia on her take on the most recent immigration policies & the wins of compensation, new immigration papers to people who once did not have them & the journey ahead. 
  • Amelia on her fear that these policies may return once her reporting fades in the public sphere. “There’s clearly a real feeling that being very tough on immigration is very politically popular.” 
  • The racism in the USA versus the racism in the UK. “Cloaked in layers & layers of politeness.”
  • Amelia on her ‘relentless’, ‘obsessive’ research & the impacts of her reporting on her family life & work life.  Plus her experience with her husband working in the government & being colleagues with Amber Rudd at the time. 
  • The impact of journalism on society & the changes the industry faces with COVID-19 & the loss of funding to the press.
  • What’s next for Amelia & her writing method with immensely tight four month deadlines. 
  • Amelia on writing as a white voice on black issues. “I think it’s not helpful to look at reporting like that… In a newsroom you can’t allocate stories to a specific person”. “You have to trust the reporter to be well informed & able to grapple with any topic.”

Buy The Windrush Betrayal from your local Bookseller:

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