Government accused of ‘pandering to far right’ over Windrush deaths

Labour MP accuses Sajid Javid of sounding like 'Enoch Powell in reincarnation' 

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 05 February 2019 17:44
David Lammy accuses government of ‘pandering to far right’ after three more Windrush deaths revealed

The Home Office has been accused of being a “dog whistle to right-wing press” over the response to the Windrush scandal.

In an impassioned speech in the House of Commons, Labour MP David Lammy accused the department of “killing” black British people and condemned ministers for arranging a charter flight to Jamaica before the Windrush review was complete.

His remarks came after Sajid Javid, the home secretary, revealed 18 Windrush citizens suffered detriment due to their right to be in UK not being recognised – three of whom are now deceased. He said he had written to the remaining 15 to apologise.

Addressing Mr Javid, Mr Lammy said: “Every single one of these cases is a shocking indictment of this government’s pandering to a far-right racism, sham immigration targets and a dog whistle of the right-wing press.

“We are now ten months on from when this scandal broke. Not a penny has been paid out to any Windrush victim in a compensation scheme. The independent Windrush lessons review has not yet reported.

“I say to you Home Secretary, before the review is even complete, why are you deporting people? How can you be confident that you are not making the same mistakes?”

During the heated debate, Labour MP Janet Daby, who has Jamaican heritage, said she found Mr Javid's tone on immigration "most disturbing", before adding: "I feel that he sounds like Enoch Powell in incarnation.”

It comes the day before around 50 people with previous criminal convictions are set to be deported on the first charter flight to the island since the Windrush scandal erupted, in what has been described as a “slap in the face” for Britain’s Caribbean community.

The Home Secretary was also accused of "misleading" the Commons after claiming they were all convicted of "very serious crimes [...] like rape and murder, fire arms offences and drug trafficking".

Information gathered by Movement for Justice about 26 of the deportees shows none were convicted of murder and one was convicted of rape. Others were jailed for less serious offences such as possession of drugs or minor assault.

Under British law, anyone who is not a British citizen can be deported if they have been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of 12 months or more. But campaigners argue that the removal of the Jamaican nationals – which for many means returning alone to a country they left as young children – constitutes a “brutal double punishment”.

Minnie Rahman, public affairs and campaigns manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said the Home Secretary’s comments were"not only misleading but a clear attempt to distract attention from the cruel deportation of people who have lived in the UK their entire lives".

She continued: “Detention and deportation should never be used as alternatives to an effective criminal justice system. There are countless offences which most people don’t believe should be punished by exile for life – especially when they’ve already served prison time in the UK.

"The Home Office should not be punishing people twice.”

The latest figures from the Windrush taskforce, which Mr Sajid revealed during the debate, shows on average 20 referrals are made to it each week, and that so far 3,400 had been granted citizenship, 215 had been referred to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to receive benefits they were previously denied.

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