by Sajid Javid
COMMONWEALTH citizens have contributed an immeasurable amount to the UK. They came to help rebuild this country after the Second World War and have enriched our communities, culture and society as a whole.
My own parents came to the UK in the 1960s, with just a pound between them before building a life here through hard work and graft. It was people just like my mum, my dad, my brother or even me, who were treated so unjustly by this country, and that is why I am determined to put things right.
When I became home secretary, I immediately set up a taskforce to help the Commonwealth citizens who had been affected. Since April last year, more than 3,600 people have been granted citizenship under the Windrush Scheme, including more than 400 nationals from south Asian countries such as India and Pakistan.
However, I recognise that helping people to regularise their status in the UK does not go far enough in righting the wrongs they experienced. That is why we have launched a compensation scheme to compensate people for the injustices they have faced.
For me, it’s been vitally important that we get this scheme right. That’s why I have made sure it’s been shaped by the personal stories of people who suffered, and it is why it will be overseen by an independent lawyer to provide additional scrutiny.
I understand that these problems are often seen as unique to the Caribbean community, but I want to stress that the scheme is open to all nationalities. I want to make sure that every community in Britain that has faced these problems, including the Asian community, is aware of the compensation scheme and able to access it.
It is open to anyone who came to live in the UK from a Commonwealth country before 1973, and anyone from any nationality who made the UK their home before December 31, 1988, can apply.
Our scheme will ensure that people are properly compensated for the unjust treatment they have suffered. That is why they will be able to claim for a wide range of losses. This can include if they lost their job, their home or if they couldn’t access healthcare or education.
We will also compensate for the huge emotional distress that these issues caused.
The process will be straightforward and easy to use. People will be able to apply online and by freepost in the UK, and from abroad. We will, of course, have staff on hand to help those who need assistance to make a claim.
I’ve heard heart-breaking stories of how people have suffered personally, but also how their families have been affected. That is why this scheme will also be open to whole families, so in certain cases, children, grandchildren and other close family members who suffered
I know that we have more to do to rebuild the trust we lost, but I see this compensation scheme as a step towards putting things right and making sure that those who suffered can continue to build their lives in the UK.
This is a momentous point in our work to make right what has happened, but our job does not stop here. In the next few months, we will receive the results of an independent Lessons Learned review so we can identify what went wrong.
I’m also committed to reviewing the entire immigration system, to make sure that it is fair and humane, and protects those that are vulnerable.
It’s imperative to me that we learn from these events, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that nothing like this ever happens to any group of people ever again.