Jewish leaders have demanded urgent action after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) ruled that the government broke equalities law over the Windrush scandal with its ‘hostile environment’ policy.
Issues caused by the policies were “repeatedly ignored, dismissed or their severity disregarded” according to the EHRC, in what the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) have branded “disturbing but not surprising”.
The Windrush scandal broke in 2018 when it was discovered that hundreds of Commonwealth citizens had been wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights under hostile environment legislation, announced in 2012, in a government attempt to push out undocumented migrants.
The EHRC agreed with an earlier report that the experiences of the Windrush generation were “foreseeable and avoidable”, and its chair described their treatment as a “shameful stain on British history”.
The Jewish Council for Racial Equality said: “It is disturbing, but not surprising, that a report from the EHRC has found that the Home Office broke equality laws when imposing its ‘Hostile environment’ immigration laws.
“As EHRC chair Caroline Waters has stated, the impact of such policies has led to a shameful stain on British history. Such findings are scandalous, and must receive due attention, alongside the actions outlined in the recent UK Parliament report on ‘Black people, racism and human rights’.”
Even as the effects of the hostile environment policies emerged, the Home Office had “limited” engagement with those from the Windrush generation, the report said.
To make sure events aren’t repeated, the government department has committed to an agreement with the EHRC to take action.
The EHRC has recommended the department should consider the historical context and cumulative implications around immigration policies and take meaningful action to fully understand and comply with the PSED.
JCORE added: “The appalling injustice of the Windrush scandal continues to have a devastating impact on the lives of many black Britons, and while JCORE welcomes the Home Office’s commitment to working with the EHRC, immediate steps must be taken to ensure that such shameful institutional failings are never repeated.
“If the Home Secretary is serious about righting the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation, she must also take urgent action to reform the Windrush Compensation Scheme, including addressing recent, deeply concerning allegations of systemic racism and discrimination within the scheme.
“Tragically at least nine people have died before receiving compensation that they applied for, and only 196 people have received payment after 18 months of the scheme’s operation, a national disgrace that must be immediately addressed.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel and Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft said in a statement: “We are determined to right the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation and make amends for the institutional failings they faced spanning successive governments over several decades.
“This report highlights a number of important areas for improvement by the Home Office, building on the work we are already doing in response to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review to apply a more rigorous approach to policy making, increase openness to scrutiny, and create a more inclusive workforce – including by launching comprehensive training for everyone working in the Home Office to ensure they understand and appreciate the history of migration and race in this country.
“We are working closely with the EHRC on an action plan designed to ensure that we never make similar mistakes in the future.”
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