CHURCH leaders and politicians have urged the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, to reconsider her decision to ignore three crucial recommendations from the inquiry report on the Windrush scandal.
In a statement last week, Ms Braverman said that she would not proceed with the plans to strengthen the powers of the immigration watchdog, to set up a new national migrants commissioner, and to run reconciliation events with Windrush families, despite the Home Office’s original endorsement of them after the publication of the report which investigated the wrongful deportation of UK citizens of Caribbean descent (News, 20 March 2020).
The Area Bishop of Croydon, Dr Rosemarie Mallett, who was born in Barbados, described the decision in a post on Twitter as “beyond disappointing, but sadly expected”. She told the Church Times: “Windrushers suffered — and some even died — because of a toxic environment, which saw them treated as illegal immigrants, despite the fact they had lived most of their lives in this country — and had arrived by legal means, many as young adults or even as children, like myself.
“People will feel like they were given empty promises and encouraged to hold false hopes. We already know that some of the older Windrushers are dying before they can get access to the compensation that was promised, and now other parts of the compensation scheme are also being taken away. I am sure the intention of the agreed Windrush scheme was not to be duplicitous — saying one thing and doing the next — but this is how it appears to be turning out.”
The Church of England’s first Racial Justice Director, the Revd Guy Hewitt, said: “I join others in urging the Home Secretary to revisit her decision to drop key commitments of the review. To backtrack on promises that were made would be another blow to the confidence and well-being of UKME/GMH communities, particularly those from the Caribbean.
“The Windrush scandal was the devastating consequence of the British Government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policies on undocumented, elderly, West Indian-born, long-term UK residents. People who had contributed hugely to the well-being of the UK for most of their lives were cruelly thrown out of work, denied medical treatment and benefits, and held in detention in appalling circumstances, with some deported.
“It was a long, hard-fought campaign to get the Government to publicly recognise this injustice, apologise, and offer compensation. Many had hoped that we were on the road to a lasting solution and reconciliation of past hurts.”
The author of the report, Wendy Williams, a solicitor and an HM Inspector of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, criticised the decision, saying that she was “disappointed that the department has decided not to implement what I see as the crucial external scrutiny measures”.
Among the voices raised again the Home Secretary’s decision was Baroness Floella Benjamin, the entertainer and Liberal Democrat peer, who chairs the Government’s Windrush Commemoration Committee. She said that it was “cruel” and would cause “even more pain and hurt”.
David Harewood, the Birmingham-born actor whose Barbadian parents arrived in Britain in 1957, described the announcement as “awful”, saying that “we’re dangerously flirting with ideologues”.
Patrick Vernon, convenor of the Windrush 75 network set up to mark the 75th anniversary celebrations of the arrival of the liner Windrush, which brought the West Indians to work in Britain, said: “For the Home Secretary to be backsliding on Government commitments to set right the injustices of the Windrush scandal — particularly in this anniversary year — is a slap in the face for those communities.”
The Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy, said that those people from black communities who were “detained and deported” during the Windrush scandal were being “once again spat on” after the Home Secretary’s decision; and the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, called the U-turn “yet another betrayal of the Windrush generation”.
A Home Office spokeswoman said that it had “paid or offered more than £64 million in compensation to the people affected”, and said that most of the proposals from the inquiry were being adopted. “We are making progress towards the vast majority of recommendations from Wendy Williams’s report, and believe there are more meaningful ways of achieving the intent of a very small number of others.
“Through this work, we will make sure that similar injustices can never be repeated and are creating a Home Office worthy of every community it serves.”