Windrush compensation scheme needs to go further
Hackney Council is calling on the Government to go further with its proposed scheme to compensate members of the Windrush generation, and is urging people to make sure they have their say.
Following the implementation of the Immigration Act 2014, many British Citizens who had travelled to Britain from Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean and elsewhere were wrongly classified as illegal immigrants. They were denied access to public services, and the right to live and work in the UK, and some were detained or deported.
The Government is now proposing to compensate those affected and has launched a consultation outlining how its scheme would work. The consultation closes on 16 November.
In August, Hackney was the first council in the UK to pass a comprehensive motion regarding the Windrush generation, pledging to oppose the criminalisation of Windrush families, calling for an end to the ‘hostile environment’ policies and support for those who have been affected by them, agreeing to celebrate annual Windrush Day, and press central Government for a public inquiry into the scandal.
It believes the current compensation scheme is ‘an inadequate response to the scale of suffering that the misapplication of ‘hostile environment’ policies has created’. Key elements of its consultation response include:
There should be no maximum compensation amount, no confidentiality agreements and no time limits or other restrictions placed on the scheme.
It should be easy to engage with and understand, and discourage the need to use claims management firms.
There is a danger that the compensation scheme creates precisely the bureaucratic tick box style system which has been the essence of the problem for those trying to prove their British citizenship.
The scheme should also compensate for emotional distress, and not just direct financial losses which can be easily demonstrated.
There should be no one size fits all approach to how compensation claims are judged. The Home Office should engage on a personal level with each claimant to try and understand the human impact of their policies.
Past offending behaviour should not be a reason for being excluded from the scheme or being naturalised.
Compensation should be tax free and reflect the individual circumstances of each claimant, many of whom may be living abroad.
As well as free legal advice, there should be one-to-one support that provide help from initial request for support through to resolution.
Hackney’s Windrush generation and their children have, and continue to, contribute a huge amount, and are at the heart of the borough’s culture. It’s appalling that these valued members of society have been treated as second class citizens by this Government.
“Hackney Council and voluntary and community sector organisations across the borough have repeatedly heard first-hand about the terrible impact Home Office policies are having on local people’s lives. They are devastating individuals and families, and hundreds of residents are living in a climate of fear and uncertainty.
“As well the personal anguish the ‘hostile environment’ approach has had on British citizens, it is leading to a host of other negative outcomes. Fear of drawing attention to themselves and facing deportation is acting as a barrier to people who are not undocumented migrants from accessing services and advice to which they are fully entitled. Areas particularly affected include health and mental health services, housing support, and employee rights advice, and the result is often exploitation and discrimination.
“While we welcome the idea of a compensation scheme, the Government now needs to do the right thing and ensure it’s fit for purpose, rather than the current set of inadequate box-ticking half-measures it’s currently proposing. I’d urge everyone who’s a member of the Windrush Generation, or who knows someone who has been affected by the Government’s policies, to make their voices heard.
The ‘Windrush generation’ refers to people who, between 1948 to 1971, were invited by successive governments to relocate to Britain from their homes in Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean to address labour shortages.
Despite widely being considered British citizens, many didn’t have formal papers and new laws which came into force with the Immigration Act 2014 led to some facing immigration checks and difficulty demonstrating their lawful status. This led to many being denied access to benefits, healthcare, social housing and losing their jobs, with some even wrongly detained and deported.
About 8% of Hackney’s population is of Afro-Caribbean ethnicity and it’s believed the borough is home to hundreds, if not thousands, of the Windrush generation, and many more come from Commonwealth countries across the globe.
For more information and to have your say, visit the government’s consultation website.
Hackney Council’s full response is available here.