MPs have reported the Home Office to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission over the Windrush scandal, claiming that the Government broke – and is still breaking – equality laws.
In a letter to the rights watchdog, a group of 87 parliamentarians accuses the Government of unlawfully discriminating against migrants as a “direct result” of hostile environment policies.
“Clearly, the Windrush scandal represents one of the gravest breaches of equality law and the rights of British citizens in recent memory,” the letter reads.
The Home Office has said it was “committed to righting the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation”.
What Was The Windrush Scandal?
During the Windrush scandal, hundreds of British residents were wrongly detained, threatened with deportation and denied legal rights because the Home Office had categorised them as undocumented migrants by mistake.
In at least 83 cases, individuals who had resided in Britain for decades – having arrived in the UK as British subjects from Commonwealth countries before 1973 – were wrongly deported.
Image credit: The Empire Windrush ship/Wikimedia
An unknown number of individuals also lost their jobs, their homes, or were denied benefits or access to certain medical care to which they were entitled.
It was known as the ‘Windrush Scandal’ because many of those affected were from Caribbean countries. Migrants from the Caribbean pre-1973 were named the “Windrush generation” after the ship that brought one of the first groups of West Indian migrants to the UK in 1948: the Empire Windrush.
An estimated 500,000 people from the Windrush generation are now living in the UK.
‘Gross Mishandling And Abuse’
MPs across six different parties, including Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, the SNP’s Alison Thewliss and Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael, argued that the Home Office breached the public sector equality duty set out in the Equalities Act 2010.
The legislation means that all public bodies must act to eliminate discrimination and advance equality.
David Lammy, the chair of the all party parliamentary group on race, claims that the Government is still “routinely” discriminating against British citizens because of race.
“The gross mishandling and abuse of the Windrush generation by the Home Office raises serious questions over whether British citizens were discriminated against on the basis of their race and ethnicity, in breach of equalities legislation,” Mr Lammy told the BBC.
“More than a year after I first raised this in Parliament, nothing has changed. Justice must mean not only due compensation and reparation, but changes to the institution and immigration laws that created this crisis.”
Home Office Response
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary and the Immigration Minister are committed to righting the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation and the recently launched compensation scheme is a crucial step in delivering on that commitment.
“The Windrush generation have given so much to this country and we will ensure nothing like this ever happens again, that is why the Home Secretary commissioned a lessons learned review with independent oversight by Wendy Williams.”
Image credit: Sajid Javid, the current Home Secretary/Flickr
The Commission has since responded to say it is considering the issues raised in the letter.
As well as Windrush migrants, anyone who has been in the UK since 1988 and has been wrongly classified as living in Britain illegally could be entitled to compensation.
More than 5,000 people have since received missing documentation proving their legal right to remain in the UK by the Windrush taskforce. According to the Guardian, 3,674 of them have been officially reinstated with British citizenship.
The total number affected by the scandal remains unknown.