The Queen has paid tribute to the “profound contribution” of the Windrush “pioneers” as the monarch marked Windrush Day for the first time.
The 96-year-old head of state described a new national monument, unveiled at London’s Waterloo station on Wednesday, as a “fitting thank you”.
In a written message, the monarch said she hoped the statue – of a man, woman and child in their Sunday best standing on top of suitcases – will inspire present and future generations.
Buckingham Palace said it was the first time the Queen had marked the day, which was first observed in 2018.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the unveiling, with William using his speech to highlight the racism black men and women are facing in modern-day Britain.
The Queen’s message read: “It gives me pleasure to extend my congratulations on the creation of the National Windrush Monument.
“The unveiling at Waterloo station on Windrush Day serves as a fitting thank you to the Windrush pioneers and their descendants, in recognition of the profound contribution they have made to the United Kingdom over the decades.
“It is my hope that the memorial will serve to inspire present and future generations, and I send you my warmest good wishes on this historic occasion.”
The message was signed Elizabeth R.
Next year marks 75 years since the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks in 1948, bringing 500 passengers from the Caribbean, at the invitation of the British government, to help rebuild the UK in the aftermath of the Second World War.
From the late 1940s to 1971, thousands of men, women and children left the Caribbean for Britain.
But in the Windrush scandal, members of the Windrush generation and their children were wrongly detained and even deported – and others denied access to official documents, healthcare, work, housing benefits and pensions – despite living legally in the UK.
A report into the scandal, published in 2020, found it was “foreseeable and avoidable”, with victims let down by “systemic operational failings” at the Home Office.
The department demonstrated “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness” towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation, the review found.
William’s speech on Wednesday highlighted the racism faced by those who travelled to live in Britain from the Caribbean, and the discrimination black people continue to experience today.
“Discrimination remains an all too familiar experience for black men and women in Britain in 2022,” he said.
He added: “Every part of British life is better for the half a million men and women of the Windrush Generation.”
But William warned: “it is also important to acknowledge the ways in which the future they sought and deserved has yet to come to pass.”
The duke vowed: “I want you to know that you can count on mine and Catherine’s continued support in helping us achieve a future they would be proud of.”
In 2020, the Prince of Wales, in a video message marking Windrush Day, spoke of the “debt of gratitude” the nation owes the Windrush generation as he heralded Britain’s diversity as its “greatest strength”.
William praised the “spirit” of the Windrush generation in a speech during the Cambridges’ tour to Jamaica in March.
The Government, which has provided £1 million in funding for the new monument, said it ”symbolises the courage, commitment and resilience of the thousands of men, women and children who travelled to the UK to start new lives from 1948 to 1971”.