The Tories continue to fail the victims of the Windrush generation scandal
14 Jul 2018HIS week the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, said he would consider publishing a report into the conduct of civil servants during the Windrush scandal after it was initially announced it would not be published.
This report came about after his predecessor Amber Rudd stepped down as home secretary, having given the home affairs select committee incorrect information about targets for removing illegal migrants when answering questions about the Windrush crisis.
After her resignation, Home Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam commissioned a report by Sir Alex Allan, the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministers’ interests, to examine the quality of the information given to Rudd before the meeting, but has said it will not be published.
Yet, as Conservative MP Douglas Ross, a member of the home affairs select committee has said, “this was a very public scandal, it resulted in the resignation of the former home secretary, the advice she received at this meeting was subject to much publicity.”
It is absolutely clear that these findings must be published, and furthermore that ministers — and indeed the whole government — must take responsibility for their role in the Windrush scandal, which led to our own citizens being illegally detained or even deported.
Yet at each stage of the process — and despite the fact that this national scandal has seen people who had travelled to this country legally and who were completely certain that they were British treated with unbelievable levels of harshness and cruelty — the government has dragged its feet on coming forward with the full story about what has happened.
The discussion this week surrounding Rutnam’s findings followed hot on the heels of the publication within recent weeks of two important reports on the Windrush scandal.
The publication of the joint committee on human rights report on Windrush on June 29 was a damning indictment of how the government’s “hostile environment” policy led to the Windrush scandal.
Specifically, the report says that the Home Office provided “no credible explanation” as to why two children of the Windrush generation, Paulette Wilson and Anthony Bryan (who have been in Britain since childhood), were wrongfully locked up twice, depriving them of their human right to liberty.
The committee, made up of MPs and peers, took evidence from Wilson and Bryan, and examined their Home Office cases files.
It found that these files contained all the evidence that showed that the Home Office had no right to detain them and yet they were still wrongly twice detained.In terms of the way forward, among the committee’s recommendations were that the Home Office should review its use of detention for immigration purposes to ensure it doesn’t use it unlawfully, that there should be a fundamental change in the law, culture and procedures to protect human rights in the work of the Home Office, and that a more humane approach to dealing with people who come into contact with the immigration enforcement system is needed.
However ministers try to spin these issues, it is clear beyond any doubt that these were not isolated mistakes or the product of a few overzealous officials, but rather a product of the “hostile environment” approach.
This point was confirmed again only days later, when the cross- party home affairs select committee of MPs report on the treatment of the Windrush generation said that unless the department is overhauled the scandal “will happen again, for another group of people.”
The report found that “a change in culture in the Home Office over recent years, as a consequence of political decisions and political leadership, has led to an environment in which applicants are automatically treated with suspicion and scepticism and have been forced to follow processes that appear designed to set them up to fail.”Without such a real change, I agree with the committee that attempts to rebrand the “hostile environment” policy the “compliant environment” are meaningless.
In terms of specific recommendations, the report called for passport fees to be abolished for Windrush citizens; for a return to face-to-face immigration interviews; for immigration appeal rights and legal aid to be reinstated; and for the net migration target to be dropped.The government should act immediately on these recommendations. It is an absolute disgrace that it has still not come forward with a clear plan for compensation and refused to introduce a hardship fund in the meantime.
Additionally, it is clear that injustices such as these will continue as long as the “hostile environment” policy is in place.This is a policy which treats people who are legally entitled to be here as if they are here illegally.
The Windrush generation are the first victims of this policy, but there will be more if there is not a real change of direction.
Theresa May is the author of the “hostile environment” policy, and her government still has not come clean about the full extent of the harm it has caused.The hostile environment has been politically-motivated and driven. It is certainly not a product of analysis of our economic our social needs.It’s time for a new approach.
* Originally published in The Morning Star.