The Windrush Lessons Learned Review

The Independent Review into the Windrush scandal has found evidence of “ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation” by the Home Office “consistent with elements of the definition of institutional racism.”

Published on 19 March 2020, the Windrush Lessons Learned Review urged the Home Office to acknowledge wrongdoing and the harm it has caused to the Windrush generation, open itself up to greater scrutiny and change its culture to recognise that immigration policy should be rooted in humanity.

Recommendations for the government

Among a series of thirty recommendations, the report, led by Wendy Williams, called on the government to provide an “unqualified apology to those affected and the wider black African-Caribbean community” as soon as possible. A full review and evaluation into the “hostile environment” policy and measures, which accentuated existing Home Office failings and eventually revealed the Windrush scandal, was also recommended. Indeed, crucially, the report acknowledges that 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.

In the House of Commons, the Home Secretary said in response to the Review’s findings: “We must all take responsibility for the failings that led to the unimaginable suffering of this generation. On behalf of this and successive governments, I am truly sorry.” However, she has not gone on to outline how the government plans to formally respond.

What is the Windrush Scandal?

In 2013, the Home Office introduced a series of reforms it said were designed to tackle illegal immigration, which changed its interpretation of the legal status of many people in the UK almost overnight.

Approximately half a million people who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971, known as the “Windrush generation”, were particularly affected by the introduction of the hostile environment policy regarding immigration.

Many of the Windrush generation, some of whom had lived in the UK their entire lives, were wrongly classified as illegal immigrants. Many also lost their jobs, homes, pensions and access to healthcare as a result, while some were locked up, prevented from returning to the UK from holiday or even deported.

Thompsons Solicitors’ response to the Review

In April 2019, we described how the Windrush Compensation Scheme failed to right the wrongs of the state. The newly-published Windrush Lessons Learned Review has highlighted the extent of these wrongs.

“Given the reach of the Home Office into all areas of life in the UK, the Windrush Lessons Learned Review is of profound significance for all workers and society as a whole,” commented Declan Owens, a trade union and labour rights lawyer at Thompsons.

“The Review’s recommendations must be implemented as a matter of urgency - however, the government must also go further.

“Thompsons is backing the call from a range of race equality and migrants’ rights organisations, including The Runnymede Trust and JCWI, for an independent review into the extent of institutional racism in the Home Office and whether its immigration policies are in accordance with equality law.”

To ensure justice for the victims of the scandal, Thompsons will continue to call for greater scrutiny of the Home Office’s hostile environment, culture and attitudes towards race equality in the UK. Thompsons is working with the TUC in its campaign for justice for Windrush victims and is also investigating the merits of a legal challenge to widen the restrictive eligibility criteria for applicants to the Windrush Scheme to regularise their immigration status. If successful, this legal challenge could help address this historic injustice by allowing excluded family members and descendants of the Windrush generation to also access the Windrush Compensation Scheme.