Labour has declared that the government “should be deeply ashamed” after the Home Office was found to have broken equalities law through the implementation of ‘hostile environment’ immigration policies.
A new report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission has concluded that the government failed to fulfil its legal duties and that this contributed to the serious injustices experienced by the Windrush generation.
The assessment by the equality body identified that negative consequences of Home Office policies were “repeatedly ignored, dismissed, or their severity disregarded at crucial points of policy development”.
Equality impacts were “often considered too late”, according to the EHRC, exceptions to the equality duty were “in many cases interpreted incorrectly” and there was a “general lack of commitment” to equality.
Reacting to the report, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “The Windrush generation have made a huge contribution to our society – the government should be deeply ashamed of these findings.
“Ministers must work urgently to rectify this, including getting a grip of the Windrush compensation scheme, which has descended in to an offensive mess, piling injustice upon injustice.”
Alexandra Ankrah, the most senior black Home Office employee in the team responsible for the Windrush compensation scheme, resigned earlier this year and has since described the scheme as systemically racist.
David Lammy, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary and MP for Tottenham who organised the cross-party letter referring the Home Office to the EHRC last year, described the report as “damning”.
The shadow cabinet member said: “Black Britons were detained, deported, denied healthcare, housing and employment by their own government because of the colour of their skin.
“Since the scandal broke, the Home Office has only paid lip service to its victims. It must now urgently rectify this gross injustice.”
The EHRC has instructed the Home Office to understand the equality impacts of its policies, engage properly with affected groups and consider the historical context and cumulative implications of its policies.
The government has been told to take “meaningful action” with the aim of improving its ability to understand and comply with the public sector equality duty, and to be “fully transparent and open to scrutiny”.
Thomas-Symonds has criticised the government for being too slow to compensate the victims of the Windrush scandal “given the number of years that have elapsed since this scandal first came to light”.
He highlighted in July that the Home Office only managed to compensate 60 people in the programme’s first year of operation, and called for the government to be more proactive in its support.
Since the creation of the Windrush compensation scheme in April 2019, Labour has repeatedly highlighted that the government-run programme is not properly delivering for people affected by the scandal.
The Windrush lessons learned review concluded that what happened to Black members of the Windrush generation was “foreseeable and avoidable” and that the Home Office had showed “thoughtlessness towards the issue of race”.