MPs demand major Home Office reforms to prevent another Windrush scandal
The Home Office must instigate major reforms or risk another Windrush scandal happening “all over again to others in future,” a powerful group of MPs has said.
The Home Affairs Committee said the kind of “appalling injustice” suffered by Windrush children could only be avoided through “root and branch” reform of immigration policy.
In a new report, the MPs urged ministers to scrap the controversial net migration target and demanded a rethink of the so-called ‘hostile’ or ‘compliant’ environment for illegal immigrants.
British citizens who came over from Commonwealth countries between the 1940s and 1970s on boats like the Emperor Windrush ended up getting caught up in an illegal immigration crackdown.
Thousands may have been threatened with deportation or stripped of their rights to work, benefits and healthcare. Some have even been booted out of the country.
The Home Affairs Committee said policy choices and political decisions had led to a “hostile culture and callous” immigration system that hit British citizens who lacked documentation.
Labour chair of the committee Yvette Cooper said: “The new Home Secretary [Sajid Javid] has a great deal of work to do before the UK has a humane and fair immigration system.
“The Windrush generation, who have contributed so much to Britain, have been badly let down.
“The Home Office has a responsibility to make sure nothing like this can ever happen again.”
The Committee called for an appeals process for rejected Windrush cases, a hardship fund and the publication of the redacted Home Office guidance for the Windrush taskforce.
It also demanded an overhaul of casework culture, the restoration of immigration appeals and legal aid and the removal of the tens of thousands net migration target.
And it hit out at Mr Javid's attempt to rebrand the ‘hostile environment’ agenda taken up by Theresa May when she led the department.
“We question whether the hostile environment should continue in anything like its current form," the MPs argued.
“Simply rebranding it as the ‘compliant environment’ is a meaningless response to genuine concerns.”
Labour said the report was “damning” and blasted ministers for failing to come forward with a compensation plan or hardship fund.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott added: “This scandal will continue as long as the 'hostile environment' policy is in place, which treats people who are legally entitled to be here as if they are here illegally. This policy must go."
A Home Office spokesperson said: "The experiences faced by some members of the Windrush generation are inexcusable and it is clear that we must do what is needed to ensure that nothing like this happens again. The Home Secretary has said that it is his top priority to right the wrongs that have occurred.
"A lessons learned review, which will have independent oversight, will help ensure that we have a clear picture of what went wrong and how we should take this forward. But in the meantime we are already reviewing existing safeguards to ensure that those who are here lawfully are not inadvertently disadvantaged by measures put in place to tackle illegal migration.
"At the same time, our taskforce is helping those who have struggled to demonstrate their right to be here are supported to do so and we have committed to setting up a compensation scheme."