The Windrush scandal emerged after the Home Office’s plans to cut down on illegal immigration in the UK led to the legal status of many people in the UK changing almost overnight.

In 2013, the Home Office, then under the control of Theresa May, introduced a system of identity checks, which gave permission to, or demanded that, employers, NHS staff and private landlords check immigration status of those they had dealings with.

Soon after the order from the Home Office came through, cases emerged of people being wrongly classified as illegal immigrants because they couldn’t provide the right documentation. They, as a result, faced the risk of deportation.

Most of those wrongly classified were from the Windrush generation. This led to thousands of people from the Caribbean who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971 losing their jobs, homes, pensions and access to healthcare. Others were detained and deported, despite having lived in Britain their entire lives and paid UK taxes.

The Home Office is now developing a system to help the Windrush generation after a petition calling on the Home Office to grant them amnesty attracted more than 20,000 signatures. The Home Office is also devising a compensation scheme for those wrongfully caught up.

Want to know more? We’ve answered your frequently asked questions on the Windrush scandal below.


1. What is the Windrush scandal?

In 2013, the then-Home Secretary, Theresa May, introduced a policy that would create a ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants, making it harder for them to seek permanent residency in the UK.
Anyone without the relevant documentation to stay in the UK would need to prove their case or face deportation. The policy either gave or demanded landlords, NHS staff and employers obtained evidence of people’s citizenship or immigration status. It gave permission for individuals who failed to do so to be   evicted, let go or denied healthcare treatment to those who failed to do so.
Thousands of people of the Windrush generation have been wrongly classified as illegal immigrants because they could not prove their residency status. They have lost their jobs, homes and been denied access to healthcare. Many have been detained and deported.

2. What is the Windrush generation?

Thousands of people who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971 from a Commonwealth country have been labelled the Windrush generation. These people were invited from African and Caribbean countries to work in essential services and help rebuild Britain after World War II.

Many children of the Windrush generation, now adults, did not formalise their residency status and don’t have the documentation to prove it. They came to the UK on their parents’ passports and many did not apply for a passport themselves because they didn’t intend to leave the country.

The 1971 Immigration Act granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK to Commonwealth citizens already living in the country. The Home Office did not keep a record of those granted indefinite leave to remain.

Thousands of Commonwealth citizens have been detained and deported because they could not provide the documentation to prove their residency status when the rules changed. Others have lost their jobs, homes, pensions and have been denied healthcare, even though they have paid UK taxes for all of their adult lives.

3. What was Windrush migration?

Windrush migration began when the SSE Empire Windrush arrived in June 1948 at Tilbury Dock in England.

The ship sailed from the Caribbean to London with 492 passengers on board from Commonwealth countries. The passengers had been invited to Britain to help rebuild it after World War II and fulfil labour shortages. They were later labelled the Windrush generation.

4. What is the Home Office doing to support the Windrush generation?

The now Home Secretary, Sajid Javid (who replaced Amber Rudd, who lost her job because of the scandal), says that he is designing a new system to ensure Commonwealth-born, long-term UK residents would no longer be classified as illegal immigrants.

The Home Office say that intend to work with the Windrush generation to help them secure their UK residency, rather than putting all the pressure on the individual to gather the relevant documentation.

A Home Office helpline for Windrush immigration cases provides help and support to those who need to confirm British citizenship to prove their residency. The number is 0800 678 1925.

The citizenship fee has been waived for those of the Windrush generation who wish to apply for British citizenship. There will also be no fee for children of the Windrush generation who need to apply for naturalisation, and residents are no longer required to carry out a ‘Knowledge of language and life in the UK’ test.

The new scheme also aims to ensure those who made their lives here but retired to their country of origin can return to the UK. This has been done by waiving the fees associated with the process.

5. I have been affected by the Windrush scandal. Can I get compensation?

Yes. The Home Secretary has appointed Martin Forde QC, a barrister specialising in health laws, to advise on a Windrush compensation scheme.
It is said that the scheme aims to compensate any member of the Windrush generation who has been wrongly accused of living in the UK illegally.

The government has called on the Windrush generation to provide evidence of cases where they were treated badly by the Home Office.

While details of the compensation scheme are yet to be revealed, those who have incurred loss or damage as a result of the Windrush scandal should be able eligible to make a compensation claim.

Find out more about the Windrush scandal and the latest news here.