“Migration policy is about people”: Windrush report exposes Home Office’s lack of humanity

The independent inquiry also condemns the department’s behaviour as “consistent with some elements of the definition of institutional racism”.

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The Windrush scandal was “foreseeable and avoidable”, an independent report into Home Office failings finds.

In betraying a generation of migrants by wrongfully stripping them of their rights, the department displayed “an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation… which are consistent with some elements of the definition of institutional racism”, according to the inquiry.

Two years in the making, led by an inspector of constabulary Wendy Williams, the report draws on Home Office archives and documents, interviews with ministers and officials and the stories of people affected. It reveals a picture of carelessness and incompetence.

“The Home Office must acknowledge the wrong which has been done; it must open itself up to greater external scrutiny; and it must change its culture to recognise that migration and wider Home Office policy is about people and, whatever its objective, should be rooted in humanity. I encourage the Home Secretary and the Home Office to implement my recommendations in full.”

The crux of the problem was that new and successive governments were keen to “demonstrate that they were being tough on immigration by tightening immigration control”, therefore creating the coalition-era “hostile environment” policy towards migrants. The report says this policy was formulated with a “complete disregard” for the Windrush generation, who neither had (nor had ever needed) paperwork proving their status as British citizens.

A full review and evaluation of the hostile environment policy is recommended by the report. Yet as long as governments want to be seen as cracking down on immigration – this one was elected with a manifesto promise of bringing “overall numbers down” – and fail to learn lessons from Windrush, another scandal like this one will arise for a future generation of migrants. 

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

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