THE British government said on Monday (22) it was determined to “right the wrongs” of its treatment of Britons of Caribbean origin who were detained or deported as illegal immigrants.
Home Secretary Priti Patel and Bishop Derek Webley, a senior church leader, will chair a cross-government working group to address the scandal involving the “Windrush generation”.
They were targeted despite moving to Britain legally in the 1950s and 1960s.
Marking the 72nd anniversary of the ship Empire Windrush’s arrival in Britain, Patel said she was determined to find “sensible, constructive and responsible solutions quickly” to the “challenges facing black and ethnic minority people across society in education, work and health”.
The home secretary added that the “strength of feeling over the injustices sadly still experienced by minority communities today” had been highlighted by the waves of anti-racism protests after the police killing of George Floyd in the US.
The decision to form a working group came after an official report — ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’ by Wendy Williams — published in March had found successive governments pushing a hard line on illegal immigration showed a “complete disregard” for their plight.
Following the review, Patel had apologised on behalf of the state in the House of Commons: “There is nothing that I can say today which will undo the pain, the suffering and the misery inflicted on the Windrush generation.
“What I can do, is say that on behalf of this and successive governments: I am truly sorry.
“I am sorry that people’s trust has been betrayed… There are lessons to learn for the Home Office. But also, society as a whole.”
On Monday, Patel said the the newly formed group was “crucial to delivering on our promise to right the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation and it is right that we advance these issues in a constructive, sensitive and responsible way”.
“We know that the best way to make sure we reach all those affected is by listening to them and hearing their voices, including how best to address the wider challenges that disproportionately affect those from BAME backgrounds,” she said.
“From issues affecting education, work and health, this group will support Government to deliver practical solutions as well as advising on the design of the Windrush Community Fund scheme and response to the Wendy Williams review.
“What we need most now is action and I am excited to work in partnership with this group who themselves hold valuable experience within the community and are driven to bring the ultimate change that we all want to achieve, which is making a difference to people’s lives.”
National Windrush Day is being marked for the second year running on Monday, to pay tribute to the contribution of the Windrush generation.
It commemorates the day in 1948 when the Empire Windrush ship first arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex, southeast England, carrying Caribbean migrants to help fill jobs in Britain.
The government said it gave £500,000 to English community groups and local authorities to host events to mark the occasion.
The Windrush scandal surfaced in 2017 after it emerged that hundreds and potentially thousands of Britons had been caught up in successive immigration clampdowns.
Their statuses were regularised in 1971 but few were given any official documentation nor were records kept.
The subsequent inquiry led by Williams found the Home Office had shown “an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history” of those involved.
Williams warned on Sunday that there was a “grave risk” of similar failures happening again if the government did not implement its dozens of recommendations.
Figures released last month showed fewer than 5 per cent of claims under the government’s Windrush compensation scheme have been paid out so far.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called on the government to learn from their suffering and end what he said was a “hostile environment” faced by immigrants in the capital.
“It is clear that too many Londoners are still being failed by an immigration system that is prohibitively expensive and simply not fit for purpose,” he said.