HACKNEY Mayor Philip Glanville and Carole Williams, Cabinet Member for Equalities, have pressed the Home Secretary that the Windrush compensation scheme ‘does not go nearly far enough in addressing this injustice’.
They write: “Despite your announcement of the overhaul of the compensation scheme in December, and the news in February that since that decision, nearly £4 million more had been offered to those affected, we still feel strongly that the Government must go further in relieving the distress it is responsible for.
“We remain deeply concerned that according to the Government’s own figures just 17% of Windrush victims who had made claims had received payment.”
They go on: “The Windrush generation and their families, many of whom made Hackney their home, have been served disgracefully by the Home Office. We are appalled by the injustice that some of our residents have been subjected to, as their lives and families have been uprooted, jobs and opportunities have been lost, and the hardship and heartache that they have endured because of flawed immigration controls.
“The Windrush Lessons Learned Review is very clear that “the Home Office must acknowledge the wrong which has been done; it must open itself up to greater external scrutiny; and it must change its culture to recognise that migration and wider Home Office policy is about people and, whatever its objective, should be rooted in humanity.”
“From the work that we have undertaken in Hackney with our voluntary and community sector, advice agencies, legal aid providers and not-for-profit groups, we are aware that potential claimants are not always aware that they may be eligible to seek redress through the Windrush compensation scheme. This experience is replicated across the country.”
The Mayor and Cabinet Member emphasise that the Government must take responsibility and relieve the distress it is responsible for.
“We repeat the comments from previous correspondence, urging you to provide legal aid to all those who have been affected. We would also encourage the Government to conduct a full information campaign to alert individuals from a Commonwealth country who arrived before 1 January 1973 and those with a ‘right to abode’ or ‘settled status’ who arrived in the United Kingdom before 31 December 1988 and their families of their right to make a claim under the scheme.
“The failure to undertake these actions means that potentially thousands of individuals will not be compensated for the wrongs they have suffered.”
Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member for Equalities
To date, this work has been left to local councils, under-funded advice agencies, not-for-profit groups and legal firms acting pro-bono, all of which have stepped in to bridge this gap to provide individuals directly affected by the hostile environment policies, and their families, with the information they require.
The Mayor and Cabinet Member say: “This is an untenable position and a dereliction of responsibility, which we would urge you to remedy.
“We are particularly dismayed by the explicit decision of the Home Office to exclude immigration advice providers from those organisations eligible to apply for the Windrush Community Fund.
“In Hackney, we are very proud to have a long-cherished history of being a destination for new arrivals in the UK. About 8% of Hackney’s population is of African and Caribbean ethnicity and it’s believed to be home to hundreds, if not thousands, of the Windrush generation who came from other Commonwealth countries across the globe.
“They literally helped to build our borough and this diversity has made Hackney the special place it is today.”
They say they are ‘appalled that some of our residents have been treated as second class citizens’.
They go on: “The unlawful actions of the Home Office have had a profound impact on the lives of British residents. As the recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report has found, your “department did not comply with section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 (the PSED) in understanding the impact on the Windrush generation and their descendants when developing, implementing and monitoring the hostile environment policy agenda”.
“The terrible experiences of the Windrush generation have suffered were both ‘foreseeable and avoidable’.
“The rules which came into force with the Immigration Act 2014 and 2016, and the ‘hostile environment’ policies have caused significant harm to our residents in Hackney, as well as deep personal anguish. We would urge you to repeal your ‘hostile environment’ policies as a priority.”
The Mayor and Cabinet Member have offered to meet with the Home Secretary to discuss ongoing concerns about the treatment of the Windrush generation, and the impact the ‘hostile environment’ agenda has had, and continues to have, on residents.
19 April 2021