The Home Office has come under fire for its detention of members of the Windrush Generation.
Paulette Wilson and Anthony Bryan had spent most of their lives in the UK before being detained by the Home Office.
Both are members of the Windrush generation, the name given to immigrants who arrived in the UK from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1971. Invited by the British Government to fill shortages in the labour market, they and their children were granted indefinite leave to remain by the 1971 Immigration Act.
However, despite living the UK for decades, many never received formal British citizenship. After changes to immigration law in 2012, many members of the Windrush generation struggled to prove they were legally resident in the UK. This was the case for Wilson and Bryan, who found themselves detained not once, but twice.
Now, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has condemned the Home Office’s approach in the strongest possible terms.
A “Traumatising” Experience
Image: Steve Eason/ flickr.com
Chaired by Labour MP Harriet Harman, the Joint Committee on Human Rights produced a report pointing to serious shortcomings in the Home Office. The report found that the Home Office had no right to detain Paulette Wilson and Anthony Bryan, who had both arrived in the UK as children.
“The Department simply ground forward through their processes, clearly traumatising Ms. Wilson and Mr. Bryan in the process,” Harman commented.
The report highlighted the importance of the right to liberty, contained in Article 5 of the Human Rights Convention. Committee members noted that, “an individual should not be deprived of their liberty without good reason and adequate safeguards.”
The Department simply ground forward through their processes, clearly traumatising Ms Wilson and Mr Bryan in the process.
The Committee also found that, in regards to Wilson and Bryan, “these two people had a legal right to be in the country and yet were deprived of their liberty and detained. And it might be that there are many more, although the exact number is still unknown.”
“Shocking” Approach by the Home Office
Image: Steve Eason/ flickr.com
The report argued that the Home Office had provided “no credible explanation” as to why Wilson and Bryan were detained. “It is simply not plausible that these cases were just ‘mistakes’,” Harman stated. “The Home Office did not behave like a department which had discovered it had made a terrible mistake, demonstrating a systemic failure when it comes to detaining individuals and depriving them of their liberty.”
“What happened to these two people was a total violation of their human rights by the state’s most powerful government department,” she continued.
The report found that, “even if a person did not have a right to remain, detention powers should only be used if it is necessary.” Living settled family lives, neither Wilson nor Bryan posed a flight risk – making their detention appear disproportionate.
What happened to these two people was a total violation of their human rights by the state’s most powerful government department.
The report contended that the choice to detain Wilson and Bryan demonstrates a “catalogue of errors” on the part of the Home Office. These include a “misapplication of the law relating to immigration status, the seemingly unlawful and inappropriate use of detention powers, and a culture that failed to treat people with basic respect and dignity.”
What Needs to Happen Next?
The Committee called on the Home Office to review its detention policies to ensure they’re “necessary and appropriate.” It also encouraged a more humane approach to immigration enforcement, with greater accountability and opportunities to challenge a wrongful conviction. Committee members also suggested the creation of a hardship fund for members of the Windrush generation who may be experiencing financial difficulty.
Harriet Harman warned that, in order to move forward, the Home Office must find a way to acknowledge past mistakes. “It needs to face up to what happened before it can even begin to acknowledge the scale of the problem and stop it happening again.”
Featured Image: Steve Eason/ flick.com