Phil Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, has called on the Prime Minister “to commit to an independent inquiry into the ongoing Windrush generation scandal, and to scrap your regressive ‘hostile environment’ approach to immigration which has caused so much harm to so many innocent people.”

In a letter to Theresa May, he went on:  “When I wrote in May this year, I welcomed comments from the Home Secretary, that he would ‘do the right thing’ and make the existing system more fair and humane. I appreciate there have been some positive steps taken but, six months on, I am yet to see the meaningful action which to my mind, and that of my residents, would constitute ‘the right thing’ having been delivered.

“Only last week an extremely damning National Audit Office report laid bare the incompetence and lack of humanity in how officers in his Department discharged their duties under the ‘hostile environment’ approach.

It criticises –

  • the poor-quality data that wrongly classified people as illegal immigrants;
  • the risky use of deportation targets;
  • poor value for money;
  • failure to respond to numerous and clear warnings that the policies would hurt people living in the UK legally;
  • failure to protect the rights of people to live, work and access services in the UK;
  • refusal to widen the scope of its search for victims of its policies;
  • and a surprising lack of urgency to identify other groups that may have been affected.

It makes very clear that the Home Office still has a long way to go.

Hackney has a long cherished history of migration which has made it the special place it is today. About 8% of its population is of Afro-Caribbean ethnic origin and it’s believed the borough is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of the Windrush generation, and many more come from Commonwealth countries across the globe.

They and their children have, and continue to, contribute a huge amount to Hackney, and are at the heart of the borough’s rich diversity and vibrant culture.

To see valued members of society being treated as second class citizens by your government has left me, and I imagine any fair-minded individual, appalled. It is entirely without justification and the Home Office’s cold approach to the enforcement of its ill conceived ‘hostile environment’ immigration policies has been startlingly inhumane.

Hackney Council and voluntary and community sector organisations across the borough have repeatedly heard first-hand about the terrible impact Home Office policies are having on local people’s lives. They are devastating individuals and families, and hundreds of residents are living in a climate of fear and uncertainty.

As well the personal anguish this ‘hostile environment’ approach has had on British citizens, it is leading to a host of other negative policy outcomes. Fear of drawing attention to themselves and facing deportation is acting as a barrier to people who are not undocumented migrants from accessing services and advice to which they are fully entitled.

Areas particularly affected include health and mental health services, housing support, and employee rights advice, and the result is often exploitation and discrimination.

Residents not accessing the services they need results in considerable negative knock-on effects for them and the wider system. We are experiencing a growing number of individuals and families presenting as having No Recourse to Public Funds, meaning families are only supported once they are found to be destitute in line with Section 17 of the Children Act, which has a clear impact on the welfare of children and adults.

Finally, there is a growing concern that the Windrush issue is simply the tip of the iceberg.

Policies to make life difficult for non-documented migrants is impacting on many who are non-white British. There is increasing discrimination in access to services, housing, jobs and wider participation in our communities. Also, Hackney has many highly skilled migrants who increasingly are being asked to meet stringent tests to remain in the UK.

Current immigration policies are threatening community cohesion and economic growth in culturally diverse boroughs such as Hackney. It also makes me concerned for the 40,000 Hackney residents with EU citizenship, who might face similar challenges in years to come if they lose their documents or fall on hard times.

I share the view of many, including Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and Shadow Home Secretary, that the Immigration Act 2014 needs to be overhauled to stop any further travesties such as Windrush, as well as more general negative societal and economic issues.

I also echo the calls for your Government to launch an independent inquiry into the Windrush scandal to ascertain what went wrong, who was responsible, how we can ensure something similar won’t happen again, and demonstrate clearly to the communities affected that your Government knows this was unacceptable.

I also write to urge you to broaden the scope of your proposed Windrush compensation scheme. While welcoming the principle of a compensation scheme, it needs to be fit for purpose and provide meaningful support and recompense to the many deserving victims of regressive Home Office policies. Unfortunately, the current proposed scheme is an inadequate response to the scale of suffering that the misapplication of ‘hostile environment’ policies has created.

The seriousness of this issue, and the harm caused to thousands of British citizens, requires more than an inadequate set of box-ticking half-measures. Included alongside this letter is Hackney Council’s full response to the Home Office consultation with suggestions on how it should be improved.

I would appreciate an update on what actions your Department has taken over the past six months to resolve the issues surrounding the status of the Windrush generation, and what it plans over the coming year to speed up the process of delivering justice to those affected?

I would also be pleased to hear about changes you intend to make to dismantle your department’s regressive ‘hostile environment’ policies, and particularly what, if any, elements of the Immigration Act you will be looking to address to make it a more humane and sensible piece legislation fit for a 21st Century Britain? “

  • In August 2018, Hackney was the first council in the UK to pass a comprehensive motion regarding the Windrush generation [pdf], pledging to oppose the criminalisation of Windrush families, calling for an end to the ‘hostile environment’ policies and for support for those who have been affected by them, agreeing to celebrate annual Windrush Day, and press central Government for a public inquiry into the scandal.

If you want to know more about what Hackney Council is doing, since that motion, to practically help those caught in the ‘hostile environment’, take a look @ the advice page

 

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