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22 November 2018

We still do not know the true scale of the Windrush Generation scandal

Too often the public are given the impression this scandal only affects people from the Caribbean, when it is in fact the whole Commonwealth and beyond.

By Diane Abbott

Each week sees more horrifying revelations come to light when it comes to the Windrush scandal and the government’s appalling treatment of its victims.

In one disgraceful example, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed to the Home Affairs Select Committee on 12 November that eight more members of the Windrush generation who may have been wrongly deported have been found to have died, taking the total to at least 11.

He has also confirmed that officials had been unable to contact many of those thought to have been caught up in the Windrush scandal, meaning that the number who have died could turn out to be higher still.

He said there were 83 cases in which it had been confirmed that people were wrongfully deported and there may be a further 81. Of the 81 cases seen as less clear-cut, officials have contacted 75, leaving six to be reached – three of whom are believed to have died.

In the former cases, the Home Office has made contact with 42 affected people, while a further 33 have proven uncontactable, of whom eight have died.

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It was also reported that the government’s tally of wrongful deportations and detentions is likely to rise from this figure of 164, as a number of affected people have been misclassified as a “criminal case type”. This meant they were excluded from this figure, which will now be revised.

The reason for this is that the government has conducted an official review of 11,800 cases of Caribbean-born people who have been detained or removed since 2002 to assess how many might have been mistakenly targeted despite being here legally, and in August decided to exclude anyone with a criminal conviction. But now the Home Office has said its “criminal case type” category wrongly included people who had “committed only a minor offence/s or have been acquitted or not prosecuted.”

All these revelations came shortly after we found out that citizens from an astounding 64 countries have been referred to its Windrush taskforce.

Since September, 66 per cent of people granted indefinite leave to remain after being referred to the taskforce were from the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Grenada, with 30 per cent from “other nationalities.” These included people from European countries including France and Germany and Commonwealth countries such as Nigeria and Australia.

As well as being a further indication of the extent of the scandal, these figures also clearly illustrate the important point that too often the public are given the impression this scandal only affects people from the Caribbean, when it is in fact the whole Commonwealth and beyond.

And now, this week, we have seen Windrush victims and campaigners criticise the consultation phase of the government’s proposed compensation scheme, saying it is too long and complex, and warn that not enough is being done to advertise it.

One victim of the scandal, told the Guardian that filling in the form is “very stressful” and “puts you off writing the form.”

Another, aged 54, said “the wording… didn’t make it… easy for people.”

In response to these developments, Callton Young, a Labour councillor and member of the Croydon African Caribbean Family Organisation, said “I found the online Windrush compensation consultation form to be a technical barrier to justice for victims of the hostile environment” adding “it is too long and complicated and crashed before I could finish completing it.”

Chloe Robinson of Praxis, a charity that helps vulnerable immigrants, added that the consultation “hasn’t been properly advertised … [and] I feel like there’s been a very low response.”

There is also frustration concerning how long it is taking to pay compensation, with Satbir Singh, of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, saying many “are at risk of destitution.”

For this very reason, Labour has been demanding a hardship scheme for months, and yet still the government refuses to listen to victims or campaigners.

These latest revelations – and indeed the piecemeal nature of updates we are getting – show that the government is still simply not taking the Windrush scandal and its aftermath seriously enough.

We also need to be clear in saying that deaths of deported British citizens and deportations for convictions that never existed all point to the real evils of the government’s failed hostile environment policy on immigration. As part of this, we must never forget that the ‘hostile environment’ was championed by the current Prime Minister during her six-years as home secretary.

The reality is that we still do not know the true scale of the Windrush Generation scandal, including how many people were deported and imprisoned. It’s time for the government to come forward with all the truth, for a proper, decent compensation scheme, and justice for all the victims.

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