A UK Parliament committee on Wednesday (6) demanded that the government must not “simply ignore” Indians and other Commonwealth citizens caught up in the Windrush scandal, involving historic immigrants wrongly denied their citizenship rights in the UK.
In its report at the end of a review into the scandal, the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was extremely critical of the UK Home Office’s handling of the crisis. It concluded that while the majority of those embroiled in the crisis were of Caribbean origin, other Commonwealth nationalities caught up in a similar situation deserved more attention.
“The Windrush scandal concerns the entire Commonwealth, not only Caribbean nationals, and while the Department [Home Office] has reviewed 11,800 Caribbean cases, around 160,000 non-Caribbean Commonwealth cases remain unreviewed. We believe these people cannot be simply ignored,” concludes the report by the committee of cross-party MPs.
“Despite clearly acknowledging to us that a wider group of people could be affected, the Department has limited both its reviews, of removals and detentions and of compliant environment sanctions, to people from 12 Caribbean countries. It is also contrary to the Department’s admission that it was reasonable to expect that non-Caribbean nationals may have also been affected, and that people from other nationalities, including India, Australia and Nigeria, have approached it for help,” it adds.
In an update to Parliament last month, UK home secretary Sajid Javid had revealed that at least 455 Indians were able to confirm their nationality as British under the Windrush scheme, set up in the wake of the scandal in April last year. A majority of them (367) had arrived in the UK before 1973, when the immigration rules changed, while the others had either arrived later or were a family member of the so-called “Windrush generation”.
The Windrush generation refers to citizens of former British colonies who arrived before 1973, when the rights of such Commonwealth citizens to live and work in Britain were substantially curtailed. While a large proportion of them were of Jamaican/Caribbean descent, the term also covers Indians and other South Asians.
“The Department told us there had been high levels of coverage in the Caribbean specifically of the scheme, but it was planning further targeted media to non-Caribbean Commonwealth countries, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh,” the PAC report noted.
“The Department should extend its historical reviews beyond Caribbean Commonwealth nationals to include other Commonwealth nationals who may have been wrongfully detained, removed or sanctioned under the compliant environment,” it recommends.
The term Windrush relates to a ship by that name which brought Jamaican workers to UK shores in 1948. It emerged that many who arrived as children around that period were struggling to access state services or even threatened with deportation because they did not possess any documents to prove they arrived in Britain before 1973.
The UK Home Office had set up a Windrush Taskforce in April 2018 to deal with a backlog of thousands of such cases. The UK Home Office has confirmed that as of the end of December 2018, a total of 3,406 people have been granted citizenship under the scheme.