Windrush campaigners have called for an end to the government’s hostile environment policy after a report revealed the generation had been let down by the Home Office’s attempts to act tough on immigration.
The hostile environment policy has come under fire over claims it failed to take into account that people from Commonwealth countries may have a legal right to live in the country but may not have papers and correct documentation to prove this.
After the publication of the report, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told the House of Commons: ‘The Windrush scandal wasn’t just a mistake, it wasn’t just something that happened because people didn’t read the rules properly.
‘It was rooted, as Wendy Williams points out, in the systemic culture of the Home Office and failure of ministers to listen to the warnings they were given about what could be the effects of the hostile environment on people perfectly legally entitled to be here.
‘So I have heard her [Priti Patel’s] apology, but people will believe her apology when they see her genuinely seek to implement the recommendations in this review.’
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Under the Immigration Act 2014, the hostile environment policy was designed to make Britain a ‘really hostile environment for illegal migration’, according to then home secretary Theresa May.
It included plans to deport people first and consider appeals later, make checks on the right to live and work in the UK tougher and have a more complex application process.
The idea was that making it so difficult for illegal immigrants to live in the country would encourage them to leave of their own accord.
Labour MP David Lammy said the publication of the Windrush report could not have come at a ‘worse time’ and that the Home Office needs to be rebuilt ‘brick by brick’.
He tweeted: ‘The Windrush Lessons Learned Review is a brutal indictment of the Home Office, which shows it is wholly unfit for the society it is supposed to serve. The Windrush scandal was not an innocent mistake, but a systemic pattern of appalling behaviour.
‘The explosive review details that the Home Office showed ‘institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness’ on race issues which is ‘consistent with some elements of the definition of institutional racism’. The scandal was rooted in its toxic internal culture.
‘When the problem is institutional, the only solution is to tear out the ruined foundations and rebuild the institution brick by brick. This is what the Home Office needs.’
Minnie Rahman, public affairs and campaigns manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: ‘The review echoes what we have always known: justice for the Windrush generation will only be truly served by root and branch reform of Britain’s cruel and racist immigration system.
‘They are and always were British but they were treated as if they had no right to be here at all – disbelieved, detained, even deported.
‘The Windrush scandal was no mistake, but the inevitable result of the government’s attitude to immigration and the implementation of the hostile environment.
‘If the government is truly serious about learning the lessons from the Windrush scandal, they will implement all the recommendations in the review immediately and scrap the hostile environment.’