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Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the official report on the Windrush Scandal was released this week.
Written by Wendy Williams, a leading solicitor and long-standing member of Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service, the report was scathing. It concluded that the crisis was “foreseeable and avoidable” and had occurred as a direct result of short-sightedness, insensitivity, and inflexibility on the part of the Home Office.
While Williams stops short definitively declaring the Home Office institutionally racist, she does say that the “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race” did conform to “some elements of the definition of institutional racism”.
Williams has made a number of recommendations for the Home Office in the light of this report. First, it should rectify the injustice committed by helping those affected demonstrate their right to stay in Britain and paying compensation where appropriate. Williams further makes a number of recommendations to ensure a similar scandal does not recur.
Finally, she calls for general improvements to leadership, policy making, and operations via increased external scrutiny and the fostering of a more humane culture at the Home Office.
It is worth quoting at length:
“Members of the Windrush generation and their children have been poorly served by this country. They had every right to be here and should never have been caught in the immigration net. The many stories of injustice and hardship are heart-breaking, with jobs lost, lives uprooted and untold damage done to so many individuals and families.
“However, despite the scandal taking the Home Office by surprise my report sets out that what happened to those affected by the Windrush scandal was foreseeable and avoidable.”
“A range of warning signs from inside and outside the Home Office were simply not heeded by officials and ministers. Even when stories of members of the Windrush generation being affected by immigration control started to emerge in the media from 2017 onwards, the department was too slow to react.
The report identifies the organisational factors in the Home Office which created the operating environment in which these mistakes could be made, including a culture of disbelief and carelessness when dealing with applications, made worse by the status of the Windrush generation, who were failed when they needed help most.”
“The way members of the Windrush generation were treated was wrong. They had the right to be in the UK. The difficulties they have had in demonstrating this cannot be laid at their door. I have been provided with no positive justification for why they were treated in the way they were or why the department did not detect sooner that there would be a discrete group likely to be detrimentally affected by the hostile environment measures. They were not present unlawfully in the UK and should not have been, however unwittingly or unintentionally, swept up in measures aimed at those that were.”
One victim of the scandal put it well in the report: “I can’t believe I have been treated like this by my beloved England”
The full report can be read here.