Only 17% of Windrush scandal victims have received payouts

Only 17% of Windrush scandal victims have received payouts as figures show £2.9m has been paid to 300 people after 1,761 compensation claims

  • Home Office received nearly 1,800 compensation claims by end of December
  • Windrush scandal saw legal migrants wrongly deported or stripped of homes 
  • Senior officials have quit their jobs over the Government’s handling of the fiasco

Only 17% of victims involved in the Windrush scandal have received compensation as figures show £2.9m has been paid out to 300 people.

Official figures show the Home Office has received some 1,761 claims as of the end of December, with £2,869,068.16 paid out to 303 people.  

The scandal, brought about in 2012 by the Government’s ‘hostile environment policy,’ saw migrants who arrived from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1973 wrongly deported, detained or stripped of their homes and jobs.

The Home Office has faced criticism for its response to the Windrush scandal, with Home Secretary Priti Patel last month pledging to overhaul the current system amid claims it was complicated and onerous

The Windrush scandal saw legal migrants who arrived from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1973 wrongly deported, detained or stripped of their homes following the introduction of a ‘hostile environment policy’ in 2012

Since the fiasco came to light, the Government has pledged compensation for anyone who suffered, but there has been criticism that the response has been too slow.

In November Alexandra Ankrah, the most senior black Home Office official working on the scheme, quit, saying it was not fit for purpose.

Figures released today show appeals have been made against decisions in more than 180 cases, while 144 eligible applicants were told they were not entitled to any money because their claims did not demonstrate they had been adversely affected by the scandal.

There have also been 101 claims rejected on eligibility grounds.

Victims of the Windrush scandal have been promised bigger, quicker payouts following complaints of difficulties in claiming compensation.

Last month, Home Secretary Priti Patel pledged a major overhaul of the system after saying she had listened to concerns, amid claims that the scheme was complicated and onerous.

Minimum payments will rise from £250 to £10,000 while the maximum will increase from £10,000 to £100,000.

Higher awards will be available for those in exceptional circumstances.

The ‘hostile environment policy,’ was introduced in 2012, when former PM Theresa May was Home Secretary 

The changes will apply retrospectively and will make a ‘real difference’ to people’s lives, Ms Patel said at the time.

She added: ‘I’ve always promised to listen and act to ensure the victims of Windrush have received the maximum compensation they deserve, and it is my mission to correct the wrongs of the past and I will continue to work with the Windrush working group to do exactly that.’

The scandal erupted in 2018 when British citizens, mostly from the Caribbean, were wrongly detained, deported or threatened with deportation, despite having the right to live in Britain.

Many lost homes and jobs and were denied access to healthcare and benefits.

Timeline of the Windrush Scandal (1948-2020): How UK subjects were wrongly classed as ‘illegal immigrants’, lost their jobs and homes, and were threatened with deportation by the Home Office

1948-70 – Nearly half a million people moved from the Caribbean to Britain, which in 1948 faced severe labour shortages in the wake of the Second World War. The immigrants were later referred to as ‘the Windrush generation’. 

Working age adults and many children travelled from the Caribbean to join parents or grandparents in the UK or travelled with their parents without their own passports. Since these people had a legal right to come to the UK, they neither needed nor were given any documents upon entry to the UK, nor following changes in immigration laws in the early 1970s. Many worked or attended schools in the UK without any official documentary record of their having done so, other than the same records as any UK-born citizen.

2012 – The hostile environment policy, which came into effect in October 2012, comprises administrative and legislative measures to make staying in the UK as difficult as possible for people without ‘leave to remain’, in the hope that they may ‘voluntarily leave’. The policy was widely seen as being part of a strategy of reducing UK immigration figures to the levels promised in the 2010 Conservative Party Election Manifesto. 

Measures introduced by the policy include a legal requirement for landlords, employers, the NHS, charities, community interest companies and banks to carry out ID checks and to refuse services if the individual is unable to prove legal residence in the UK. Landlords, employers and others are liable to fines of up to £10,000 if they fail to comply with these measures.

The policy led to a more complicated application process to get ‘leave to remain’ and encouraged voluntary deportation.The policy coincided with sharp increases in Home Office fees for processing ‘leave to remain’, naturalisation and registration of citizenship applications.

2013 – The Home Office received warnings that many Windrush generation residents were being treated as illegal immigrants and that older Caribbean born people were being targeted. The Refugee and Migrant Centre in Wolverhampton said their caseworkers were seeing hundreds of people receiving letters from Capita, the Home Office’s contractor, telling them that they had no right to be in the UK, some of whom were told to arrange to leave the UK at once. Roughly half the letters went to people who already had leave to remain or were in the process of formalising their immigration status.

People considered illegal were sometimes losing their jobs or homes as a consequence of having benefits cut off and some had been refused medical care under the National Health Service (NHS), some placed in detention centres as preparation for their deportation, some deported or refused right to return to the UK from abroad.

Caribbean leaders had put the deportations on the agenda at the Commonwealth meeting in Sri Lanka and in April 2016 Caribbean governments told Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, that immigrants who had spent most of their lives in the UK were facing deportation and their concerns were passed on at the time to the Home Office. Shortly before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April 2018, twelve Caribbean countries made a formal request for a meeting with the British Prime Minister to discuss the issue, which was rejected by Downing Street.

2017 – Newspapers reported that the British government had threatened to deport people from Commonwealth territories who had arrived in the UK before 1973, if they could not prove their right to remain in the UK. Although primarily identified as the Windrush generation and mainly from the Caribbean, it was estimated in April 2018 on figures provided by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford that up to 57,000 Commonwealth migrants could be affected, of whom 15,000 were from Jamaica. In addition to those from the Caribbean, cases of people affected who had been born in Kenya, Cyprus, Canada and Sierra Leone were identified in the press.

The press coverage accused Home Office agencies of operating a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ and ‘deport first, appeal later’ regime; of targeting the weakest groups, particularly those from the Caribbean; of inhumanely applying regulations by cutting off access to jobs, services and bank accounts while cases were still being investigated; of losing large numbers of original documents which proved right to remain; of making unreasonable demands for documentary proof – in some instances, elderly people had been asked for 4 documents for each year they had lived in the UK and of leaving people stranded outside the UK because of British administrative errors or intransigence and denial of medical treatment. 

Other cases covered in the press, involved adults born in the UK, whose parents were ‘Windrush’ immigrants and who had been threatened with deportation and had their rights removed, because they were unable to prove that their parents were legally in the UK at the time of their birth.

The Home Office and British government were further accused of having known about the negative impacts that the ‘hostile environment policy’ was having on Windrush immigrants since as early as 2013 and of having done nothing to remedy them.

2018 – Questions were raised in Parliament about individual cases that had been highlighted in the press. On March 14, when Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn asked May about an individual who had been refused medical treatment under the NHS during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Theresa May initially said she was ‘unaware of the case’, but later agreed to ‘look into it’. Parliament thereafter continued to be involved in what was increasingly being referred to as ‘the Windrush scandal’.

On April 16, David Lammy MP challenged then Home Secretary Amber Rudd in the House of Commons to give numbers as to how many had lost their jobs or homes, been denied medical care, or been detained or deported wrongly. Lammy called on Rudd to apologise for the threats of deportation and called it a ‘day of national shame’, blaming the problems on the government’s ‘hostile environment policy’. 

Rudd replied that she did not know of any, but would attempt to verify that. In late April, Rudd faced increasing calls for her to resign and for the Government to abandon the ‘hostile environment policy’. There were also calls for the Home Office to reduce fees for immigration services.

On May 2, Labour introduced a motion in the House of Commons seeking to force the government to release documents to the Home Affairs Select Committee concerning its handling of cases involving people who came to the UK from Commonwealth countries between 1948 and the 1970s. The motion was defeated by 316 votes to 221.

On April 25, in answer to a question put to her by the Home Affairs Select Committee about deportation targets, Rudd said she was unaware of such targets, saying ‘that’s not how we operate’. 

The following day, Rudd admitted in Parliament that targets had existed, but characterised them as ‘local targets for internal performance management’ only, not ‘specific removal targets’. She also claimed that she had been unaware of them and promised that they would be scrapped.

Two days later, The Guardian published a leaked memo that had been copied to Rudd’s office. The memo said that the department had set ‘a target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18’ and ‘we have exceeded our target of assisted returns’. The memo added that progress had been made towards ‘the 10% increased performance on enforced returns, which we promised the Home Secretary earlier this year’. 

Rudd responded by saying she had never seen the leaked memo, ‘although it was copied to my office, as many documents are’.

The New Statesman said that the leaked memo gave, ‘in specific detail the targets set by the Home Office for the number of people to be removed from the United Kingdom. It suggests that Rudd misled MPs on at least one occasion’. Diane Abbott MP called for Rudd’s resignation: ‘Amber Rudd either failed to read this memo and has no clear understanding of the policies in her own department, or she has misled Parliament and the British people.’Abbott also said, ‘The danger is that (the) very broad target put pressure on Home Office officials to bundle Jamaican grandmothers into detention centres’.

On April 23, Rudd announced that compensation would be given to those affected and, in future, fees and language tests for citizenship applicants would be waived for this group.

On April 29, The Guardian published a private letter from Rudd to Theresa May dated January 2017 in which Rudd wrote of an ‘ambitious but deliverable’ target for an increase in the enforced deportation of immigrants. Later that day, Rudd resigned as Home Secretary.

Parliamentary committees – On June 29, the parliamentary Human Rights Select committee published a ‘damning’ report on the exercise of powers by immigration officials. MPs and peers concluded in the report that there had been ‘systemic failures’ and rejected the Home Office description of a ‘a series of mistakes’ as not ‘credible or sufficient’. The report concluded that the Home Office demonstrated a ‘wholly incorrect approach to case-handling and to depriving people of their liberty’, and urged the Home Secretary to take action against the ‘human rights violations’ occurring in his department.

On July 3, the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) published a critical report which said that unless the Home Office was overhauled the scandal would ‘happen again, for another group of people’. 

The report found that ‘a change in culture in the Home Office over recent years’ had led to an environment in which applicants had been ‘forced to follow processes that appear designed to set them up to fail’. The report questioned whether the hostile environment should continue in its current form, commenting that ‘rebranding it as the ‘compliant’ environment is a meaningless response to genuine concerns’.

Home Office replies – On June 28, a letter to the HASC from the Home Office reported that it had ‘mistakenly detained’ 850 people in the five years between 2012 and 2017. In the same five-year period, the Home Office had paid compensation of over £21million for wrongful detention. 

Compensation payments varied between £1 and £120,000; an unknown number of these detentions were Windrush cases. The letter also acknowledged that 23 per cent of staff working within immigration enforcement had received performance bonuses, and that some staff had been set ‘personal objectives’ ‘linked to targets to achieve enforced removals’ on which bonus payments were made.

National Audit Office report – In a report published in December 2018, the UK’s National Audit Office found that the Home Office ‘failed to protect [the] rights to live, work and access services’ of the Windrush scandal victims, had ignored warnings of the impending scandal, which had been raised up to four years earlier, and had still not adequately addressed the scandal.

‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’ – On March 19, 2020, the Home Office released the Windrush Lessons Learned Review. This study, described by the Home Secretary as ‘long-awaited’, was an independent inquiry managed and conducted by Wendy Williams, an inspector of constabulary. 

The report was a scathing indictment of the Home Office’s handling of Windrush individuals, and concluded that the Home Office showed an inexcusable ‘ignorance and thoughtlessness’, and that what had happened had been ‘foreseeable and avoidable’. It further found that immigration regulations were tightened ‘with complete disregard for the Windrush generation’, and that officials had made irrational demands for multiple documents to establish residency rights. The study recommended a full review of the ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy.

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