Home Secretary apologises to Windrush generation, asks immigration lawyers to help with review into what went wrong
The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, made a formal apology on Monday to members of the Windrush generation who were wrongfully detained or removed from the UK.
Javid said: “The experiences faced by some members of the Windrush generation are completely unacceptable and I am committed to righting the wrongs of the past. I would like to personally apologise to those identified in our review and am committed to providing them with the support and compensation they deserve.”
According to the Home Office, a review into over 11,000 cases of removals and detentions identified 18 people who came to the UK from the Caribbean before 1973 and stayed in the UK permanently but were unable to demonstrate their continuous residence.
The Home Office said 11 of the 18 went on to voluntarily leave the country while the remaining 7 were detained but subsequently released without being removed. Of these 18, 4 were removed and 2 detained before May 2010 and 7 were removed and 5 detained after May 2010.
According to BBC News, the 18 were among 164 people who may have been wrongfully deported or detained.
Further details are available in a letter by the Home Secretary to the Home Affairs Committee here. The Home Secretary stated in the letter: “I am absolutely clear that this should not have happened and the Home Office is already working to address any wrongs done. The Home Office is already in contact with 14 of the 18 people and will continue to reach out to the remaining 4 people to put them in contact with the Taskforce. I will write to all of them offering a full, formal apology and signposting them to the compensation scheme. Should any of the 11 people who left the UK wish to return (a few are already here), they will be supported to do so. We have already supported one such individual.”
The Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, said the apology was too late and didn’t go far enough. “The Home Secretary has failed to confirm when the compensation scheme will be up and running after citizens have been left destitute, in debt and jobless by the Govt’s hostile environment,” Abbot posted on Twitter.
Sajid Javid said the Government would now work to ensure that nothing like the Windrush scandal happens again, and he announced that an independent adviser has been asked to conduct a review to see what lessons can be learned from Windrush.
As the Law Society Gazette noted, the review includes asking immigration lawyers to share their ‘valuable perspectives’ on the Windrush scandal to ensure immigrants entitled to live in the UK are never threatened with deportation.
In a call for evidence, the Home Office said: “The review would like to hear from as many people as possible who can offer an insight into what happened. As the methodology sets out, this will include talking to Home Office staff of all grades and hearing directly from people affected, as well as their families.
“We also know there are others outside those two main groups who will be able to offer valuable perspectives into what happened and why. This includes immigration advisors and lawyers who may represent those going through the UK immigration system or who are subject to immigration controls; research and academic institutions with an interest in migration, immigration and race; and other non-governmental organisations.”
Diana Baxter of Wesley Gryk Solicitors told the Law Society Gazette that she welcomed the call for evidence, but she added: “It remains to be seen whether any meaningful lessons will be learned and changes implemented as a result. The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has been monitoring and preparing independent reports on the immigration, asylum and nationality functions of the Home Office since being established under the UK Borders Act 2007, yet many of its recommendations fail to be implemented in a timely manner.”
Immigration barrister Jan Doeful said on Twitter that the call for evidence from immigration lawyers was “quite extraordinary” and asked: “Surely the answers were in the many various legal submissions we made over the years?”