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Reports and reviews

The Windrush Lessons Learned Review - Wendy Williams - published March 2020

I was asked by the then Home Secretary to provide an independent assessment of the events leading up to the Windrush scandal (particularly from 2008 – March 2018) and to identify the key lessons for the Home Office.

In carrying out this work, I have interviewed those affected and their families and representatives. I have also had access to departmental papers and have met with offcials and ministers, past and present, to ask them about their recollections of the period.

Members of the Windrush generation and their children have been poorly served by this country. They had every right to be here and should never have been caught in the immigration net. The many stories of injustice and hardship are heartbreaking, with jobs lost, lives uprooted and untold damage done to so many individuals and families. However, despite the scandal taking the Home Office by surprise my report sets out that what happened to those affected by the Windrush scandal was foreseeable and avoidable.

The causes of the Windrush scandal can be traced back through successive rounds of policy and legislation about immigration and nationality from the 1960s onwards, the aim of which was to restrict the eligibility of certain groups to live in the UK.

The 1971 Immigration Act confrmed that the Windrush generation had, and have, the right of abode in the UK. But they were not given any documents to demonstrate this status. Nor were records kept. They had no reason to doubt their status, or that they belonged in the UK. They could not have been expected to know the complexity of the law as it changed around them.

But over time those in power forgot about them and their circumstances, which meant that when successive governments wanted to demonstrate that they were being tough on immigration by tightening immigration control and passing laws creating, and then expanding the hostile environment, this was done with a complete disregard for the Windrush generation.

A range of warning signs from inside and outside the Home Offce were simply not heeded by offcials and ministers.

Even when stories of members of the Windrush generation being affected by immigration control started to emerge in the media from 2017 onwards, the department was too slow to react. The report identifes the organisational factors in the Home Offce which created the operating environment in which these mistakes could be made, including a culture of disbelief and carelessness when dealing with applications, made worse by the status of the Windrush generation, who were failed when they needed help most.

The lessons are for both ministers and offcials in the Home Offce to learn. Ministers set the policy and the direction of travel and did not suffciently question unintended consequences. Offcials could and should have done more to examine, consider and explain the impacts of decisions.

While I am unable to make a definitive finding of institutional racism within the department, I have serious concerns that these failings demonstrate an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation within the department, which are consistent with some elements of the defnition of institutional racism.

This report makes 30 recommendations for change and improvement which can be boiled down to three elements:

1) the Home Offce must acknowledge the wrong which has been done

2) it must open itself up to greater external scrutiny;

3) 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.

I encourage the Home Secretary and the Home Office to implement my recommendations in full.

Click here to link into the Review - the 30 recommendations are in Part 4 - page 135. 



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