It was one of the few scandals so bad that a senior Tory minister resigned: the Windrush scandal saw the departure of Amber Rudd from the Home Office, after many people who had come to the UK as children were targeted, and indeed deported, during the period of what was known as the “hostile environment” of immigration enforcement.has been published. This upholds the recent tradition of finding convenient times to bury bad news. And the news is very, very bad.
The report tells “Although an Act of Parliament from 1971 entitled people from the Commonwealth who arrived before 1973 to the ‘right of abode’ or ‘deemed leave’ to remain in the UK, it hadn’t automatically given them documents to prove it. Nor had the Home Office consistently kept records confirming their status. So, without making a further application and paying a fee, they had no way to show the UK was their rightful home even though, in most cases, they’d known no other”. And those affected?
They “were from a group of British people who held what became CUKC (citizens of the UK and Colonies) citizenship, and their children, who came to the UK between 1948 and 1973, mostly from Caribbean countries … known collectively as the Windrush generation, after the ship HMT Empire Windrush. It brought 1,027 official passengers, of which 802 stated their last country of residence was in the Caribbean, to the UK on 22 June 1948”.
164 individuals were the initial focus, “But they are without doubt part of a much larger group who were, or could have been, tangled up in measures intended to control illegal migration … for example, that at the time of writing 8,124 people have been granted citizenship or had their settled status documented through the Windrush Taskforce”.
Others underscore the failings. “In consultation with those affected, and building on the engagement and outreach that has already taken place, the department should run a programme of reconciliation events with members of the Windrush generation” and “The Home Secretary should continue the Windrush Scheme and not disband it without first agreeing a set of clear criteria”, for instance. There is more.
“The department should accept and implement the National Audit Office’s recommendation that,’The department should be more proactive in identifying people affected and put right any detriment detected. It should consider reviewing data on other Commonwealth cases as well as Caribbean nations’” and “The Home Office should devise, implement and review a comprehensive learning and development programme which makes sure all its existing and new staff learn about the history of the UK and its relationship with the rest of the world, including Britain’s colonial history, the history of inward and outward migration and the history of black Britons” are further yet more disturbing stand-outs.
And in any case, there will be compensation. Which will be no use at all to those who have died in the meantime, and little use to others whose lives have been turned upside down. Ms Patel’s Labour shadow Diane Abbott, whose mother was one of the Windrush Generation, responded “People will believe her apology when they see her genuinely seek to implement the recommendations in the review”. Well, quite.
Releasing this report in full is a good step forward. It is only sad that the impression is inevitably formed that the Government is using the Covid-19 pandemic as cover.
[The Legalballs Fund has now closed]