The long-awaited report, Windrush Lessons Learned, has finally been released and serves as a damning indictment of the Home Office’s negligence and willful apathy towards migrants and ethnic minorities in the UK.
The review written by independent inspector Wendy Williams was deemed a necessity after the fiasco dubbed the Windrush scandal saw hundreds of legally resident African-Caribbean people ensnared in an immigration dispute which resulted in many being wrongfully detained and even deported.
Some had lived in the UK for decades if not their entire lives and were subject to hostile inspection and were thrust into a period of uncertainty. Many lost their jobs and right to rent in the UK as a result of their suddent insecure immigration status. Records have since identified as many as 164 were deported or detained since 2002.
The report serves as a damning indictment of the Home Office’s negligence and willful apathy towards migrants and ethnic minorities in the UK
Ms Williams’ review concluded that not only were victims impacted by “systemic operational failings” but that the whole tragedy was “foreseeable and avoidable”.
In the past two years, over 8,000 claimants have been granted “some form of documentation” and some 2,500 have had their immigration status confirmed according to data from the Government.
The review emerges to a backdrop of a catalogue of errors, including a substandard compensation scheme. A budget of £200 million was set up to cater to those affected yet a total of £62,198 has so far been paid out for a disappointing 36 claimants. Campaigners criticised the scheme for addressing only a “paltry” number of people and the “slow and onerous” process.
Still, the review found the Home Office didn’t quite qualify for exerting the definition of “institutional racism”, despite earlier leaks of the draft pointing to this conclusion. Williams’ final review did find, however, that the department did demonstrate “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation.”
Recommendations in the review stressed that Home Office ministers must administer an “unqualified apology” to those affected and the wider black African-Caribbean community in the UK, starting with admitting that serious harm has been inflicted.
Ms Williams also called for a second fully commissioned review into the hostile environment after finding that many in the Windrush generation had been “trapped” by the policy’s “net”.
She continued: “Those without documents were set, some would say, an impossible task. Others would say an unreasonably high standard of proof to prove their status. And when they couldn’t, they were subject to the most appalling injustice and that included the things we have heard; losing jobs, losing homes, losing access to services like healthcare, and in extreme circumstances being removed, being locked up and as we heard in one case, dying.”
The review must be a cause for change within the Government’s immigration vision “if Britain is to believe in its own capacity for humanity, decency and fairness”JCWI statement
The report further pushes for a newly established and strategic race advisory board within the Government’s ranks. This could perhaps make some headway at preventing similar outcomes again – and can’t come soon enough since the Home Office continues to deport UK residents to foreign lands.
Williams concluded that there were “warning signs from both inside and outside the Home Office” for a matter of years, yet the Home Office “was still too slow to react.”
“I talk about a culture of disbelief and carelessness when dealing with applications.”
A joint statement by JCWI, Asylum Matters, Black Cultural Archives, Freedom from Torture, Human Rights Watch, Liberty and many more are now campaigning for the entire hostile environment policy to be scrapped. The organisations argue that this is because, even now, marginalised people and asylum seekers “are disbelieved, dismissed, detained and even deported to places where they may not be safe.”
The statement finds that no amount of measures would “atone” for the Windrush fiasco but that this period marks “a turning point in public understanding of the human impact of Home Office policy”. The statement concludes that the review must be a cause for change within the Government’s immigration vision “if Britain is to believe in its own capacity for humanity, decency and fairness.”
[Header image: Andy Rain/EPA/The Guardian.]