22 Jun On Windrush Day, we celebrate the Windrush Generation and reflect on the injustices they still suffer
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush. We honour the Windrush Generation and their descendants, whose impact on the social, cultural and political landscape in the UK is immeasurable.
It is important that we pause to celebrate this; particularly as, since the breaking of the Windrush Scandal, the words most associated with the Windrush Generation have been “victim” and “hostile environment”, as well as the horrific stories about people losing their jobs, their homes, being denied access to healthcare, being detained, being deported. It is deeply regretful that the legacy of the Windrush Generation – vibrant, pioneering, resilient – has been marred by the Scandal.
What is worse is that this Government continues to fail the Windrush Generation, and the result is that people who arrived in the UK as British subjects, who have lived in the UK for decades, are still having to fight for justice. The Windrush Scheme and the Windrush Compensation Scheme – designed by the Government to ‘right the wrongs’ – have been shamefully inadequate and continue to perpetuate the harm done to members of the Windrush Generation.
Our client, Hubert Howard, arrived in the UK aged 3. He fought for decades to have his lawful status confirmed, then for compensation, and then for British citizenship. We represented him in a judicial review challenging the citizenship refusal, which we wrote about in detail here. The High Court ruled in his favour, but the Court of Appeal found that experiences of hardship as a Windrush migrant are irrelevant to entitlement to citizenship. Sadly, Mr Howard died before the conclusion of the judicial review, and we thank his daughter for continuing the fight with us. While the outcome of this case was extremely disappointing, we continue to represent other Windrush migrants to vindicate their rights to citizenship.
Our client, Trevor Donald, arrived in the UK aged 12. He later travelled to Jamaica to bury his mother, and as a result of multiple failures by the Home Office to confirm his legal status, he ended up stranded there for 9 years. When he returned to the UK his application for British citizenship was refused because he had not been in the UK 5 years prior to the date of his application. The perversity of this is no doubt clear. However, rather than the Home Secretary taking swift action to remedy this glaring injustice, Mr Donald was forced to bring judicial review proceedings. The law has since been changed, and while welcomed, it has come far too late in the day.
The Windrush Compensation Scheme remains unfit for purpose. Some of our clients have been waiting over 3 years for a decision; and others, tired and desperate to move on, have accepted much lower awards than they deserve. As of January 2023, just over a tenth of eligible claimants have been compensated; and at least 26 have died waiting for compensation.
The Government’s inertia is writ large in the Home Secretary’s recent decision to abandon three key recommendations from the Windrush Lessons Learned Review: to run reconciliation events; and to introduce greater scrutiny of the Home Office in the form of a Migrants’ Commissioner and extension of the role of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders. These are recommendations that the Government had previously accepted and agreed to implement.
As a further insult, the Government recently announced that it would be closing the unit tasked with reforming the Home Office in the wake of the Windrush Scandal.
How can the Government say it is honouring its commitments to the Windrush Generation in the face of all this? Our client, Trevor Donald, is fighting this injustice. We represent him in a challenge against the Home Secretary’s decision to resile from the Windrush recommendations. UNISON and Black Equity Organisation, represented by Public Law Project, are in the process of applying to intervene in proceedings. We await a permission decision.