Despite the government’s best efforts to quietly brush the Windrush scandal under the carpet, BBC One’s ‘Sitting in Limbo’ ensured the world was reawakened to this communities’ cries for justice.
*This drama is based on real events*
The feature opened with a familiar feeling of family unity. In the background featured hearty laughter and the rhythms of the Caribbean pumping through the speakers.
We are quickly introduced to Anthony Bryan, (played by the powerhouse Patrick Robinson) and his family. His partner Janet McKay-Williams (Nadine Marshall) is seen close to his side from the very start, highlighting the close-knit family that resides here. He works as a painter and decorator in Edmonton and very loudly and proudly supports Tottenham Hotspur. Bryan arrived in the UK from Jamaica in 1965 aged 8 following his mother. He is a lovable partner, dad, grandfather and friend who is an upstanding member of the community.
This sweet feeling of security is abruptly shattered in the form of a letter from the Home Office in 2015.
We see this hard-working man suddenly ripped away from every sense of security in his life. He loses his right to work, NHS support and access to his pension. From this moment on he is labelled as a criminal in the eyes of the government.
The immigration routine check-ups were met with many microaggressions. From questioning Anthony about any history of being in trouble with the police to the paternity of his ‘children’. They pushed and pushed, trying to catch him out at any moment. He was on trial from the first word he spoke.
This idea of ‘low hanging fruit’ was clear. The government viewed this elderly Caribbean community as easy prey. The easiest to pick, forgotten, old and powerless.
The next thing to be taken from Anthony was his freedom.
The most harrowing scene came during the early hours of the morning in September 2016, where Anthony is forced out of his home by immigration. Janet is screaming and pleading for answers, but this only further agitates the officers. They haul him into the car half asleep and imprison him in a detention centre miles away in Dorset.
The ‘job’ was completed quickly and quietly. It was almost like they were never there. They seized him out of his home at the crack of dawn before anyone could intervene.
After a brutal 3 weeks Anthony is let go. Just as I thought I could finally breathe, there was another sickening twist to come. You would only believe works of fiction could be this cruel, but this was a very real story.
In November 2017 after a rejected appeal, they took him to yet another detention centre. The Home office even went as far as booking him on a flight back to Jamaica, offering a measly token of £1000 to rebuild there.
It was only after a last-minute intervention by an immigration lawyer that his deportation was brought to a halt.
Finally, after a long fight, Anthony came home! I was so overjoyed and relieved just being a viewer; I can’t imagine what this family was actually feeling.
Towards the closing of the drama, we are brought back to this feeling of unity. The year is 2018, and the family are reunited and dancing to rhythms of the Caribbean once more. Anthony also received his British passport in the post, which must have brought about many conflicting feelings.
This was a full-circle moment. But in a way, the circle did not truly feel whole. Would Anthony ever be the same man after this trauma? The ending only highlighted the cyclical element of hostile immigration in the U.K. If it’s not the Caribbean community, it’s another group. Which community will be quietly and violently ripped apart next? Who will be the next batch of low hanging fruit?
The continuation of this cycle was shown clear as day with this country’s fixation on Brexit and the need to ‘reclaim our country’. Now that the health pandemic has threatened all of our safety, suddenly Brexit is a thing of the past. I guess there are much more important things to be fixated on, like health, family and unity.
What is clear is that we cannot allow the government’s smokescreen tactics distract us from the real issue. Compensation. The government needs to fully pay the price for their wrongdoings. A slap on the wrist and allowing the very same compliant politicians to slither in through the back door will not cut it.
The show’s epilogue revealed, “the Home Office stated that by February 2020 there were 1108 applicants to the Windrush Compensation Scheme, of which only 36 had been granted any money. As of May 2020, Anthony has yet to receive any compensation.”
Furthermore, this drama could not have come at a better time. The black community has been thrust into the spotlight, in the face of the senseless killing of George Floyd on US soil. Now more than ever, the need for the amplification of black voices still prevails; and the U.K. is not exempt from this. This is a great start from BBC continuing on from Malorie Blackman’s ‘Noughts and Crosses’, but I really hope to see more in the near future.
THIS IS NOT A MOMENT, IT’S A MOVEMENT.
If you haven’t watched Sitting in Limbo, it is still streaming on BBC iPlayer.