Never Throw Away Records of People!

The Home Office destroyed thousands of landing card slips recording Windrush immigrants’ arrival dates in the UK, despite staff warnings that the move would make it harder to check the records of older Caribbean-born residents experiencing residency difficulties.

Prime Minister Theresa May has apologised to Caribbean leaders over deportation threats made to the children of Commonwealth citizens, who despite living and working in the UK for decades, have been told they are living in the UK illegally because of a lack of official paperwork. The reason there is “a lack of official paperwork” is because the paperwork was destroyed by the government, not the fault of the immigrants or their children.

A former Home Office employee said the records, stored in the basement of a government tower block, were a vital resource for case workers when they were asked to find information about someone’s arrival date in the UK from the West Indies – usually when the individual was struggling to resolve immigration status problems.

Although the home secretary, Amber Rudd, has promised to make it easier for Windrush-generation residents to regularise their status, the destruction of the database is likely to make the process harder, even with the support of the new taskforce announced this week.

These records also are valuable to the descendants of the immigrants listed. However, there appears to be no other records that can substitute for the immigration records.

You can read more in an article in The Guardian at

NOTE: The term “Windrush” refers to immigrants arriving in the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries. This is a reference to the ship MV Empire Windrush, which arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex, on 22 June 1948, bringing workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other islands, as a response to post-war labour shortages in the UK.


I worked for a Federal/State agency for 39 years. Toward the end of employment new management wanted us to get rid of old reports. I protested because they were the only source of some records but had to do what they wanted because they were my boss. I did manage to save some records that were bound. I called the Archives section of the State and asked if they wanted them. They said YES. I hope that they are still there but then again who knows.


Easier said than done, whether it’s on a personal, family, community, institutional, or government level. We simply live in a world that, for the most part, pushes on toward the new and leaves the old behind. Inclincation, time, skill, funding, proper storage space, and accessibility are all limited when it comes to preserving records of people, paper or digital. We’re lucky to have what we have, thanks to some dedicated people who are combatting this with some success. But we’re facing an onslaught, and unless there’s a massive change in cultural attitude, it’s unrealistic to think things won’t eventually be destroyed.


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