Majority of Windrush scandal compensation claimants are still without payment after scheme pays out £1million to 143 victims – despite 1,480 applications

  • Majority of Windrush scandal compensation claimants have still not been paid
  • Official figures indicate that £1million had been paid out to 143 victims as of July
  • But 1,480 claims have been made by victim since scheme launch in April 2019
  • Priti Patel said scheme is ‘complicated’ and she wants compensation ‘sped up’ 
  • Lawyers claim Windrush compensation scheme fails to provide access to justice

The vast majority of Windrush scandal compensation claimants have still not received payment as the scheme has now paid out over than £1million to 143 victims.

Official figures indicate that £1,053,223.17 had been paid out in response to 143 claims as of July – despite 1,480 claims being made by Windrush victims since the Windrush Compensation Scheme was launched in April last year. 

Since the previous set of figures was published, five more claims have been made on behalf of victims who have already died, taking the total number to 65.  

MPs have previously warned that there is a risk of people dying before they receive compensation owed unless the Government steps up its efforts.

Now Priti Patel, the home secretary, has said that the scheme is ‘complicated’ and that she wants to see compensation ‘sped up’.

And a group of nine law firms have written to the Home Office today claiming that the compensation scheme is failing to provide access to justice.

The vast majority of Windrush scandal compensation claimants have still not received payment as the scheme has now paid out over than £1million to 143 victims. The Empire Windrush was famous for trips from the West Indies which brought people to work in the UK

Members of the Windrush generation Paulette Wilson and Anthony Bryan: Mr Bryan, of Edmonton, north London, was one of those wrongly arrested, having been detained twice in recent years and told to return to Jamaica, which he left in 1965 aged eight

MPs have previously warned that there is a risk of people dying before they receive compensation owed unless the Government steps up its efforts (left: Windrush generation grandmother Jessica Eugene; right: Allan Wilmot in the BBC’s The Unwanted)

The scheme was set up after hundreds of thousands of people from Caribbean countries and their families were wrongly classified as illegal immigrants by the Home Office in 2018, denied legal rights, and threatened with deportation. 

They had been encouraged to come to Britain to help fill major UK labour shortages after the Second World War between 1948 and 1971. 

The group was labelled the Windrush Generation after travelling on the ship MV Empire Windrush, which docked in Tilbury, Essex, on June 22,  1948.

Priti Patel says sorry for Windrush scandal as official report blames ‘elements of racism’ at the Home Office for legal British residents being deported 

Priti Patel, the home secretary, has said that the scheme is ‘complicated’ and that she wants to see compensation ‘sped up’

Home Secretary Priti Patel was forced to apologise in March after a major report concluded ‘elements of institutional racism’ were behind the Windrush scandal.

An official inquiry ripped into the Home Office over ‘appalling’ failures that led to legal British residents being deported and made destitute.

Report author Wendy Williams, an inspector of constabulary, rejected civil servants’ claims that the Windrush scandal had been impossible to predict.

Ms Patel told MPs: ‘There is nothing I can say which will undo the pain, the suffering and the misery inflicted on the Windrush generation. 

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the time for words from the Government on the issue is over. 

‘This is yet more damning evidence that Government ministers are failing the many victims of the Windrush scandal,’ he said. ‘People who have been appallingly treated are facing unacceptable waits for compensation. 

‘This is particularly awful for those who are working and those in later life. The time for words from the Government is over – ministers need to get on and deliver for those who have been so badly treated.’

Ms Patel said: ‘I am pleased that the compensation scheme has now paid out more than £1million and that a further £800,000 has been offered, but we are determined to go further and faster.

‘It is my unwavering commitment to ensure that those whose lives were blighted and shattered receive the compensation that they deserve.’ 

Lawyers have claimed they have experienced significant delays and difficulties during their working filing dozens of compensation claims on behalf of people wrongly classified as illegal immigrants by the Home Office.  

The letter states that many applications ‘appear to be lost in a kind of bureaucratic limbo’, with some people forced to wait over a year for a verdict.

Lawyers from Birnberg Peirce, Duncan Lewis, Wilsons Solicitors, Imran Khan and Partners, Hudgell, Bhatt Murphy, Deighton Pierce Glynn, McKenzie Beute and Pope and Leigh Day wrote: ‘It is clear to us that the Windrush compensation scheme is not currently operating in a way that provides fair and effective access to justice for members of the Windrush generation. This further adds to the national scandal.’ 

‘We recently launched a new contact strategy, where all individuals will be given a named case worker and updated on a monthly basis about the progress of their claim. We are continuing to process individual claims as quickly as possible, but cases deserve to be processed individually, with the care and sensitivity they deserve, so that the maximum payment can be made to every single person.’

Earlier this week, the director of the BBC’s Windrush scandal drama, Sitting In Limbo, said the Home Office tried to view the programme before it appeared on TV.

Stella Corradi said on a panel at the Edinburgh TV Festival making the programme was a ‘real eye-opener’ to the effect that drama can have on politics.

The drama was written by Stephen S Thompson and is based on the true story of his brother Anthony Bryan’s personal struggle to be accepted as a British citizen.

Ms Corradi said the Home Office ‘were trying to view the film before it aired’.

‘It was a real eye-opener to see the impact that drama can have and how it can contribute to the conversation,’ she added. 

Windrush campaigners delivering a petition to Downing Street signed by more than 130,000 people, calling for action to address failings which led to the scandal, June 19, 2020

Jamaican immigrants are welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office after the ex-troopship HMT Empire Windrush landed them at Tilbury in 1948

1948-70 – Nearly half a million people moved from the Caribbean to Britain, which in 1948 faced severe labour shortages in the wake of the Second World War. The immigrants were later referred to as ‘the Windrush generation’. 

Working age adults and many children travelled from the Caribbean to join parents or grandparents in the UK or travelled with their parents without their own passports. Since these people had a legal right to come to the UK, they neither needed nor were given any documents upon entry to the UK, nor following changes in immigration laws in the early 1970s. Many worked or attended schools in the UK without any official documentary record of their having done so, other than the same records as any UK-born citizen.

2012 – The hostile environment policy, which came into effect in October 2012, comprises administrative and legislative measures to make staying in the UK as difficult as possible for people without ‘leave to remain’, in the hope that they may ‘voluntarily leave’. The policy was widely seen as being part of a strategy of reducing UK immigration figures to the levels promised in the 2010 Conservative Party Election Manifesto. 

Measures introduced by the policy include a legal requirement for landlords, employers, the NHS, charities, community interest companies and banks to carry out ID checks and to refuse services if the individual is unable to prove legal residence in the UK. Landlords, employers and others are liable to fines of up to £10,000 if they fail to comply with these measures.

The policy led to a more complicated application process to get ‘leave to remain’ and encouraged voluntary deportation.The policy coincided with sharp increases in Home Office fees for processing ‘leave to remain’, naturalisation and registration of citizenship applications.

2013 – The Home Office received warnings that many Windrush generation residents were being treated as illegal immigrants and that older Caribbean born people were being targeted. The Refugee and Migrant Centre in Wolverhampton said their caseworkers were seeing hundreds of people receiving letters from Capita, the Home Office’s contractor, telling them that they had no right to be in the UK, some of whom were told to arrange to leave the UK at once. Roughly half the letters went to people who already had leave to remain or were in the process of formalising their immigration status.

People considered illegal were sometimes losing their jobs or homes as a consequence of having benefits cut off and some had been refused medical care under the National Health Service (NHS), some placed in detention centres as preparation for their deportation, some deported or refused right to return to the UK from abroad.

Caribbean leaders had put the deportations on the agenda at the Commonwealth meeting in Sri Lanka and in April 2016 Caribbean governments told Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, that immigrants who had spent most of their lives in the UK were facing deportation and their concerns were passed on at the time to the Home Office. Shortly before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April 2018, twelve Caribbean countries made a formal request for a meeting with the British Prime Minister to discuss the issue, which was rejected by Downing Street.

2017 – Newspapers reported that the British government had threatened to deport people from Commonwealth territories who had arrived in the UK before 1973, if they could not prove their right to remain in the UK. Although primarily identified as the Windrush generation and mainly from the Caribbean, it was estimated in April 2018 on figures provided by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford that up to 57,000 Commonwealth migrants could be affected, of whom 15,000 were from Jamaica. In addition to those from the Caribbean, cases of people affected who had been born in Kenya, Cyprus, Canada and Sierra Leone were identified in the press.

The press coverage accused Home Office agencies of operating a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ and ‘deport first, appeal later’ regime; of targeting the weakest groups, particularly those from the Caribbean; of inhumanely applying regulations by cutting off access to jobs, services and bank accounts while cases were still being investigated; of losing large numbers of original documents which proved right to remain; of making unreasonable demands for documentary proof – in some instances, elderly people had been asked for 4 documents for each year they had lived in the UK and of leaving people stranded outside the UK because of British administrative errors or intransigence and denial of medical treatment. 

Other cases covered in the press, involved adults born in the UK, whose parents were ‘Windrush’ immigrants and who had been threatened with deportation and had their rights removed, because they were unable to prove that their parents were legally in the UK at the time of their birth.

The Home Office and British government were further accused of having known about the negative impacts that the ‘hostile environment policy’ was having on Windrush immigrants since as early as 2013 and of having done nothing to remedy them.

2018 – Questions were raised in Parliament about individual cases that had been highlighted in the press. On March 14, when Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn asked May about an individual who had been refused medical treatment under the NHS during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Theresa May initially said she was ‘unaware of the case’, but later agreed to ‘look into it’. Parliament thereafter continued to be involved in what was increasingly being referred to as ‘the Windrush scandal’.

On April 16, David Lammy MP challenged then Home Secretary Amber Rudd in the House of Commons to give numbers as to how many had lost their jobs or homes, been denied medical care, or been detained or deported wrongly. Lammy called on Rudd to apologise for the threats of deportation and called it a ‘day of national shame’, blaming the problems on the government’s ‘hostile environment policy’. 

Rudd replied that she did not know of any, but would attempt to verify that. In late April, Rudd faced increasing calls for her to resign and for the Government to abandon the ‘hostile environment policy’. There were also calls for the Home Office to reduce fees for immigration services.

On May 2, Labour introduced a motion in the House of Commons seeking to force the government to release documents to the Home Affairs Select Committee concerning its handling of cases involving people who came to the UK from Commonwealth countries between 1948 and the 1970s. The motion was defeated by 316 votes to 221.

On April 25, in answer to a question put to her by the Home Affairs Select Committee about deportation targets, Rudd said she was unaware of such targets, saying ‘that’s not how we operate’. 

The following day, Rudd admitted in Parliament that targets had existed, but characterised them as ‘local targets for internal performance management’ only, not ‘specific removal targets’. She also claimed that she had been unaware of them and promised that they would be scrapped.

Two days later, The Guardian published a leaked memo that had been copied to Rudd’s office. The memo said that the department had set ‘a target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18’ and ‘we have exceeded our target of assisted returns’. The memo added that progress had been made towards ‘the 10% increased performance on enforced returns, which we promised the Home Secretary earlier this year’. 

Rudd responded by saying she had never seen the leaked memo, ‘although it was copied to my office, as many documents are’.

The New Statesman said that the leaked memo gave, ‘in specific detail the targets set by the Home Office for the number of people to be removed from the United Kingdom. It suggests that Rudd misled MPs on at least one occasion’. Diane Abbott MP called for Rudd’s resignation: ‘Amber Rudd either failed to read this memo and has no clear understanding of the policies in her own department, or she has misled Parliament and the British people.’Abbott also said, ‘The danger is that (the) very broad target put pressure on Home Office officials to bundle Jamaican grandmothers into detention centres’.

On April 23, Rudd announced that compensation would be given to those affected and, in future, fees and language tests for citizenship applicants would be waived for this group.

On April 29, The Guardian published a private letter from Rudd to Theresa May dated January 2017 in which Rudd wrote of an ‘ambitious but deliverable’ target for an increase in the enforced deportation of immigrants. Later that day, Rudd resigned as Home Secretary.

Parliamentary committees – On June 29, the parliamentary Human Rights Select committee published a ‘damning’ report on the exercise of powers by immigration officials. MPs and peers concluded in the report that there had been ‘systemic failures’ and rejected the Home Office description of a ‘a series of mistakes’ as not ‘credible or sufficient’. The report concluded that the Home Office demonstrated a ‘wholly incorrect approach to case-handling and to depriving people of their liberty’, and urged the Home Secretary to take action against the ‘human rights violations’ occurring in his department.

On July 3, the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) published a critical report which said that unless the Home Office was overhauled the scandal would ‘happen again, for another group of people’. 

The report found that ‘a change in culture in the Home Office over recent years’ had led to an environment in which applicants had been ‘forced to follow processes that appear designed to set them up to fail’. The report questioned whether the hostile environment should continue in its current form, commenting that ‘rebranding it as the ‘compliant’ environment is a meaningless response to genuine concerns’.

Home Office replies – On June 28, a letter to the HASC from the Home Office reported that it had ‘mistakenly detained’ 850 people in the five years between 2012 and 2017. In the same five-year period, the Home Office had paid compensation of over £21million for wrongful detention. 

Compensation payments varied between £1 and £120,000; an unknown number of these detentions were Windrush cases. The letter also acknowledged that 23 per cent of staff working within immigration enforcement had received performance bonuses, and that some staff had been set ‘personal objectives’ ‘linked to targets to achieve enforced removals’ on which bonus payments were made.

National Audit Office report – In a report published in December 2018, the UK’s National Audit Office found that the Home Office ‘failed to protect [the] rights to live, work and access services’ of the Windrush scandal victims, had ignored warnings of the impending scandal, which had been raised up to four years earlier, and had still not adequately addressed the scandal.

‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’ – On March 19, 2020, the Home Office released the Windrush Lessons Learned Review. This study, described by the Home Secretary as ‘long-awaited’, was an independent inquiry managed and conducted by Wendy Williams, an inspector of constabulary. 

The report was a scathing indictment of the Home Office’s handling of Windrush individuals, and concluded that the Home Office showed an inexcusable ‘ignorance and thoughtlessness’, and that what had happened had been ‘foreseeable and avoidable’. It further found that immigration regulations were tightened ‘with complete disregard for the Windrush generation’, and that officials had made irrational demands for multiple documents to establish residency rights. The study recommended a full review of the ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy.

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