08:41 GMT29 March 2020
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    A review by an ex-lead prosecutor into the Windrush Scandal has resulted in a damning indictment of UK government policies, over a number of years, which led to thousands of mostly elderly people who were lawfully in the UK being stripped of their jobs, benefits, housing and property. In many cases British residents and citizens were even deported.

    Priti Patel, the UK's Home Secretary, has apologised for the Windrush scandal after a Home Office commissioned report came out with a damning indictment against ministers and officials for a "foreseeable and avoidable" outrage against lawful British citizens and residents. Patel also said that the compensation scheme currently in effect will be extended until April 2023 and that £500,000 will be provided to help advertise the scheme and to provide people with assistance in getting their lives back in order. Though she noted that only 30 cases are known to have been settled thus far.

    ​"[T]he evidence clearly shows that the sequence of events which culminated in the [Windrush] scandal, while unforeseen, was both foreseeable and avoidable", writes Wendy Williams, head of the lessons learned review.

    Her report, made public on 19 March 2020, makes clear that Hostile Environment policies under both New Labour from 2007, and then accelerating greatly under the coalition government from 2010, led directly to thousands of people having their lives upended as they were stripped of their jobs, benefits and even deported - all despite being lawful residents and even citizens of the UK.

    Why the Windrush scandal happened Key Dates
    Why the Windrush scandal happened Key Dates

    Government ministers repeatedly ignored evidence that this was happening according to the review, and nonetheless pressed ahead as part of their agenda to appear "tough on immigration".

    ​Williams, who was once the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Northumbria and the North East region, notes in her report that:

    “Some ministers and senior officials spoken to in the course of this review do not appear to accept the full extent of the injustice done to the Windrush generation. While all are rightly appalled by what happened, and regard it as a tragedy, many gave the impression that the situation was unforeseen, unforeseeable and therefore unavoidable."

    She also says that other officials have, "expressed the view that the responsibility really lay with the Windrush generation themselves to sort out their status". But the former prosecutor makes clear that the responsibility is on the state to track the consequences of its laws and policies including how it is being implemented and their impacts on vulnerable peoples.

    ​Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott told parliament, after Priti Patel's initial remarks, that the Opposition would not permit the current crises over COVID-19 to bury either the report, its recommendations or the follow through by the government to make right what it had gotten wrong.

    Abbott said that her mother was from the Windrush generation and that perhaps the biggest offence was the insult against thousands who came decades ago with British passports and who helped rebuild post-war Britain, being later told, wrongly, that they weren't citizens.

    She also called on the government to properly investigate all of those who suffered the consequences of years of Hostile Environment policies including from Commonwealth countries in Africa and South Asia so they, "also get the justice and the fairness that they deserve". Williams' review said that she had to focus on those from the Caribbean due to limited resources and the fact that the government failed to provide relevant details for a more comprehensive investigation.

    The 276 page report has 30 recommendations[pdf, 138 -150]. Among them are that an unqualified apology must be offered to those affected and the wider African-Caribbean community, a comprehensive plan must be published in 6 months which takes account of all the other recommendations and how they are being implemented, and sufficient outreach to affected communities must initiated. Williams also says that the Home Office should devise a plan to, "tell the stories of empire, Windrush and their legacy".

    Although human rights advocates have welcomed many aspects of the report, there are those who still feel it did not go far enough. Zita Holbourne, National Chair of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, explained that she and many of her colleagues, "have no faith in the government in taking forward recommendations". "We already witnessed their reluctance to pay any mind to the recommendations about not deporting people who came to the UK as children, last month, with the deportation flight to Jamaica". 

    ​The long-time human rights advocate also noted that Sky News reported in February that the UK government, "have already interfered with the content of the report, watering down the aspects about institutional racism". Williams writes in her report that she was, "unable to make a definitive finding of institutional racism within the department", despite then saying that there are, "serious concerns that these failings demonstrate an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation within the department", which are, "consistent with some elements of the definition of institutional racism". 

    Holbourne called for an independent public inquiry which would, "take control out of the hands of the current government and unlike lessons learned open up a thorough investigation where open, transparent and full evidence of the facts can be provided".

     

     

     

    Related:

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    Windrush Scandal 2.0? UK Home Office Holds Back Info Which Could Prove Right to Remain for Thousands
    Labour's Manifesto Pledges to End the 'Hostile Environment' and Stop Deporting Family Members
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    Diane Abbott, Priti Patel, UK, Windrush, windrush scandal
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