Holding the Home Office to their Word

Written by Paige Tamasi

The 21st century has been characterized by massive political upheaval. From the United States of America having their entire foreign affairs policy changed due to the events of 9/11 in 2001, to countries around the world legalizing same-sex marriage, to the UK passing the Hostile Environment Immigration legislation in 2012 that started the Windrush Scandal.

But what is Windrush? The Windrush was a period between 1948 to 1973 when many British commonwealth citizens immigrated from the Caribbean into Great Britain. Since these members of the Commonwealth were British citizens, they were able to work and live freely in Britain and never questioned the legality of their citizenship. They did not need to.  

However, in 2012 the Hostile Environment Legislation was enacted. This legislation increased immigration control enforcement among many employers, including the NHS, landlords, and banks. This legislation wouldn’t have been a problem for many if any of the landing cards and physical records of the Windrush Generations citizenship documentation had not been lost. An internal document from the Home Office reveals how “during the period 1950-1981 [when the Windrush generation was migrating to Great Britain], every single piece of immigration or citizenship legislation was designed, at least in part, to reduce the number of people with black or brown skin who were permitted to live and work in the UK”. The blatant prejudice that this document reveals was rampant in the UK government shows the extent of the harmful intent that went into managing the documents of the Windrush generation. Since the Home Office put the burden of proof on those accused of illegal immigration, and many of the accused do not have the proper documentation because it was never given to them, many commonwealth citizens who had been living in Great Britain for over 50 years had been wrongfully detained and deported. This sparked the beginning of the Windrush Scandal, which has now been going on for over 13 years.

Due to public outrage about how the Windrush generation were being treated and how the British government handled the Hostile Environment Legislation, The UK government promised to compensate those affected. The Home Office Secretary, Sajid Javid at the time, said in May 2018 that the Home Office would enact a ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’ to ensure that the government learns from this mistake and does not repeat it. 

In addition to the Home Office’s promise of compensation, Wendy Williams (His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of the Constabulary) carried out a review which was published over two years after the initial scandal hit. Her report found that the wrongful deportation and detainment of British citizens wasn’t accidental and that “given that the Home Office never formally or systematically issued documentation such as BRPs to this group, it is not possible to estimate the number who remain undocumented, and therefore the full scale of those who have been affected.” I begin to wonder how the Home Office allowed such a massive oversight and how many victims are going unnoticed because of the lack of official documentation.

The Home Office released a statement around the end of 2022, updating the populace on their progress on the Windrush Compensation Scheme. They said that they had made “good progress” and “had paid out or offered £59.58million on compensation claims”. Acknowledging that “Many people suffered terrible injustices at the hands of successive governments and we will continue working hard to deliver a Home office worthy of every community we serve”. Wendy William’s ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’ also found that the government “needs to demonstrate a genuine commitment to addressing these longstanding issues”, insinuating that as of March 2020 (when the review was done) the government had not been showing a genuine commitment.

The Official Windrush Compensation Scheme data from November 2020 shows that only 189 out of 1641 (11.5%) claims were rejected and only 531 (32%) of accepted claims were transferred to the Assistance Provider. That means that less than 350 of the initial 1641 claims were provided payment, and that information is from November 2020 alone. Despite the Home Office’s statement saying that the Home Office understands that more action is required, Home Office Minister, Lord Simon Murray, began to reduce the number of compensation payments.

Now what is Justice4Windrush and how do they fit in? Justice4Windrush is a political campaign run by Colin McFarlane and Annie Lennox pushing back against the reduced compensation and continuous mistreatment of the Windrush generation. Their goal is to increase awareness that the Windrush Scandal is still ongoing around Great Britain and the world. They hope that with public support they can spark legislative and federal change about how the Windrush Scandal is run and how the government handles similar discriminatory scandals in the future.

Colin and Annie produced a short film that provides factual information about the events that have been and are occurring regarding the Windrush Scandal. They hope to produce many more as well as some concerts in their attempt at drastically increasing public knowledge about Windrush.

I was recently allowed to sit down with Colin McFarlane and discuss Windrush and his goals regarding it. I came back from the interview with a deep sense of loss. Colin described the ways his father was treated, the ways other victims have been treated, and how the education system in Great Britain helped the Home Office “get away with it”. We discussed the horrible racial discrimination that the Windrush generation has faced and the abhorrent lack of knowledge. 

When discussing the Windrush Compensation Scheme and the UK government’s attempts at fixing the issue, Colin said “The woeful 2019 compensation scheme has added insult to injury and merely prolonged the trauma and is yet another illustration of decades-long discrimination by the Home Office against migrants of colour.”

In a Justice4Windrush press release, legal adviser Martin Forde KC (who has advised both Justice4Windrush as well as the Home Office), said: “The Windrush Compensation Scheme has left many victims in a state of limbo. We have heard stories of individuals being wrongly denied tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of compensation, and of families whose lives have been torn apart while they await an outcome. This is unacceptable and we are calling on the Home Office to move quickly to deliver compensation for eligible Windrushees.”

Justice4Windrush is fighting for more aid for those affected by the prejudicial legislation enacted by the Home Office in 2012. Sitting down with one of the founders of Justice4Windrush gave me a unique insight into the personal effects of this lengthy scandal. I’ll leave you with a quote from Annie Lennox on the campaign: 

“With #Justice4Windrush, we want to put the issue of Windrush front and centre, to ensure that the Windrush generation are seen, heard and healed. Bigotry, hatred and racism have pervaded the British establishment for too long. We need to put an immediate stop to the tragic injustice of this Home Office Scandal. Windrush victims deserve nothing less.”

Written by Paige Tamasi, Edited by Chloe Hayler and Paige Tamasi, Photography by Rii Schroer (The Telegraph)Published by Paige Tamasi.

Here at Insanity Radio, we encourage everyone to do further research on topics that they find important and interesting. Here is where I began my research on this important topic:

Suella Braverman plans to ditch key Windrush pledges

Windrush Lessons Learned Review by Wendy Williams

Hostile environment has fostered racism and caused poverty, report finds

Windrush Compensation Scheme data: November 2020

UK: “Hostile” Compensation Scheme Fails ‘Windrush’ Victims

Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA)

Immigration: Hostile Environment

Justice for Windrush Scandal victims