Patel pledges new cross-party working group will ‘right the wrongs’ of Windrush scandal

A new working group has been set up to “right the wrongs” suffered by the Windrush generation, Priti Patel has said.

The Home Secretary said what was most needed now was action and she will chair the new Windrush Cross-Government Working Group with Bishop Derek Webley as part of the Government’s efforts to address the scandal.

The group’s findings will influence the Home Office’s response to a report published in March, which found the department’s “system operational failings” had let down the Windrush generation, meaning some people with a right to live in the UK, were wrongfully detained or deported to the Caribbean.

It will also offer practical solutions on how to tackle the challenges disproportionately affecting people from BAME backgrounds and advise on the design and delivery of the Windrush Schemes Community Fund.

Monday marks 72 years since the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks on June 22 1948, carrying some 500 people from Jamaica.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan will join community leaders at a virtual event marking Windrush Day and called on the Government to learn from the scandal by ending the “hostile environment” faced by immigrants in the capital.

Ministers should help Londoners by increasing funding to the immigration sector and cutting its “extortionate” fees, Mr Khan said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the official human rights watchdog is launching legal action over the Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy which led to the scandal.

It meant thousands of Commonwealth immigrants – who came to Britain in the decades following the Second World War – were incorrectly denied rights, lost their jobs and in some cases, were being deported.

Ms Patel said: “This group is crucial to delivering on our promise to right the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation and it is right that we advance these issues in a constructive, sensitive and responsible way.

“We know that the best way to make sure we reach all those affected is by listening to them and hearing their voices, including how best to address the wider challenges that disproportionately affect those from BAME backgrounds.

“From issues affecting education, work and health, this group will support Government to deliver practical solutions as well as advising on the design of the Windrush Community Fund scheme and response to the Wendy Williams review.

“What we need most now is action and I am excited to work in partnership with this group who themselves hold valuable experience within the community and are driven to bring the ultimate change that we all want to achieve, which is making a difference to people’s lives.”

It comes as figures released last month showed fewer than 5% of claims under the Government’s Windrush Compensation Scheme have been paid out, with just 60 people receiving £362,996 in the first year.

Dawn Hill, who chairs the Brixton-based Black Cultural Archives, said the Home Office must improve how it works with community organisations to ensure people eligible for compensation actually receive it.

She told the PA news agency: “There have been 12,000 people who the Home Office knows about that are British citizens and the majority of that 12,000 have had their status re-established.

“Why is it necessary for the amount of paperwork produced for these compensation claim payouts?

“Why does it take so long? Who is it doing it? The whole system set up just isn’t suitable for people who are supposed to be applying through this scheme.

“What we find is the community organisations which have been helping people are not getting the support from the Home Office.

“It would if they had a proper communication plan, both face-to-face and online.”

To mark national Windrush Day on Monday, a range of online lectures and readings, cooking classes, and theatrical and musical events, will take place to recognise how British Caribbean communities have shaped society.

Following last year’s inaugural event, 49 projects across the country were awarded funding to mark the day, which will take place online.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Britain would not be the strong and vibrant nation it is today without the immeasurable contributions that the Windrush Generation have made to our country.

“These are men and women who built their lives and made their home here in Britain, enriching all spheres of our society as a result.

“From supporting and leading community networks and public services, to elevating our arts and culture, this generation has contributed so much to our society and our economy.”

Windrush campaigner reflects on ‘injustice’ of being deemed illegal

A Windrush campaigner has reflected on the “injustice and humiliation” of being deemed an illegal immigrant in the country he called home for more than 50 years.

Michael Braithwaite, who arrived from Barbados as a child in 1961, lost his job as a special needs teaching assistant for not having an up-to-date identity document two years ago.

The 68-year-old married father-of-three, who has six grandchildren and lives in north London, said the ordeal of “being told I was nobody” still causes him great mental anguish.

Mr Braithwaite also dismissed the Government’s “token” attempts and “lame excuses” to remedy the scandal and criticised the compensation scheme for victims of the affair.

Monday marks 72 years since the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks on June 22 1948 carrying some 500 people from Jamaica.

The official human rights watchdog is launching legal action to review the Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy which led to the Windrush scandal.

It resulted in thousands of Commonwealth immigrants – who came to Britain in the decades following the Second World War – being wrongly denied rights, losing their jobs and in some cases being deported to places they barely knew.

Mr Braithwaite told the PA news agency: “I think about the sense of injustice and humiliation, the don’t-care-attitude about people who came here to build this country.

“I look at it and think we’ve not moved on… families are still struggling.

“We’re still not recognised for what we’ve done and we’re still in debt and we still have bills to pay.

“They’re not recognising it as something that is powerful, has made this country what it is. The tokens they give us are not an apology just a ‘sorry’.

“For me, saying sorry is a lame excuse. Windrush day is just another lure to make us feel good for the time.

“To take my freedom away the way they did … it makes me very emotional when I think about that day when I was told I was nobody.

“I was not recognised as part of where I live, the work I’ve done, my journey was taken away.”

Campaigners including Mr Braithwaite handed in a petition to Downing Street last week signed by more than 130,000 people calling for action to address failings which led to the scandal.

Describing the attitudes of Home Office staff towards the plight of people who have lived and worked in Britain for decades, Mr Braithwaite said: “It’s ‘don’t look at the person, look at the figures and look at the numbers. Don’t read their history, we don’t want to know about them, if they haven’t got this, off you go’.

“This is not the British way as far as I am concerned.”

He also criticised the compensation scheme for victims of the scandal, describing an arduous process requiring lots of “silly little documentation” that has long since been lost.

He added: “I might be dead before I get any compensation that I’m due. But compensation is a crucial deal, people are still having to think about the rent, living off charities.”

Official figures published last month showed fewer than 5% of claims made have been paid out.

Mr Braithwaite, who has since obtained a biometric residence card, added: “We’re not fighting, we’re begging nowadays. We got angry, did things right, and it’s still a journey we have to keep going on with.

“My mental state is still not the same, I’m still trying to put myself back together.

“I’ll never be the same again. If I don’t have my routine I fall back into that mental state of mind where thing are not right with me or my head or my health.”

A report published in March found the Windrush scandal was “foreseeable and avoidable” with victims let down by “systemic operational failings” at the Home Office.

The department demonstrated “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness” towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation, the review found.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire.