By S Neeraj Krishna
PRITI PATEL has pledged to make all Home Office staff undergo training on Britain’s “history of migration and race” as part of a “comprehensive improvement plan” initiated following the scathing Windrush scandal report.
The home secretary said she was determined to make up for the Home Office’s “shameful” failings of the past, with an “unprecedented programme of change” to make it “fit for the future”.
“My ambition is to build a fairer, more compassionate Home Office that puts people first and sees the ‘face behind the case’,” Patel said in her introduction to the plan published on Wednesday (30).
“I expect to see nothing less than a total transformation of our culture.”
Notably, the announcement came as the Equality and Human Rights Commission urged the Home Office to make “a series of improvements”, including getting a better insight into the impact of its policies on ethnic minorities.
Patel stressed the programme aimed to ensure the Home Office “serves every part of the community it serves”.
“The Windrush generation have waited too long for justice and my resolve to deliver for them and their descendants is absolute,” she added.
“This is the first part of our plan to deliver meaningful change.”
According to the plan, academics will be roped for the training programme that will cover Britain’s imperial history and key aspects of migration. Analysis of how many officials – “including senior civil servants” — undergo the training annually will be published, the Home office added.
It will also review the UK’s hostile environment policy — which had been introduced by former prime minister Theresa May — as promised by Patel following Wendy Williams’s ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’.
The report had slammed the Home Office for the “foreseeable and avoidable” scandal, and its “systemic operational failings”. It also accused the department of displaying “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness” in handling the Windrush case.
Patel had, in fact, noted that the review was “just a tiny fraction away” from labelling the Home Office “institutionally racist”.
Williams on Wednesday welcomed the Home Office’s improvement plan, but stressed that it should “act swiftly to open itself up to greater external scrutiny and to implement wide-ranging cultural change”.
“Some of the more fundamental recommendations, such as the appointment of the migrants’ commissioner, require greater clarity and pace if the department is to be successful in its aim to rebuild public trust,” she added.
Satbir Singh, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said he was sceptical about the plan, and accused the Home Office of “double speak” amid the outcry over its tough stance on illegal migrants.
“The Home Office has been paying lip service to ‘righting the wrongs’ for more than two years now, while reinforcing the policies and systemic failures which caused the Windrush scandal in the first place: scapegoating of migrants, racist culture and policies, a mindset which forces migrants to go to extraordinary lengths to document or prove their right to be here,” he told the Guardian.
Sonya Sceats, head of the charity Freedom from Torture, said some points under the plan were “laudable”, but added that justice “will not be fully served until the hostile environment is scrapped and the virulent anti-migrant politics that drove its creation is rooted out once and for all”.