Citizens from more than 60 countries have been referred to the Windrush taskforce investigating mistreatment of immigrants who have lived in Britain for decades.
Legal experts warned a “huge part of the iceberg remains under the surface” after the Home Office revealed 64 nationalities may have been affected by the Windrush crisis, despite the focus being on Caribbean immigrants.
People from six European countries, including France and Germany, as well as dozens of Commonwealth nations including Nigeria, Canada and Australia, have been referred to the taskforce after contacting the Home Office with concerns about their status, according to a freedom of information response.
Labour said the new information exposed the true scale of the Windrush scandal and accused ministers of attempting to give the impression that it affects only people from the Caribbean.
The government has made numerous statements committing to “righting the wrongs” that have been committed against Caribbean nationals – but there has been little reference to other nationalities who have been affected.
Home Office figures from September showed 66 per cent of people granted status after being referred were from Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago, while 106 (4 per cent) were from India, and the remaining 30 per cent – 715 people – were classified as “other nationalities”.
While some of this cohort are likely to be from other Caribbean nations, campaigners said a considerable number of these were likely to be from other Commonwealth nations.
One Nigerian woman who has lived in the UK for 30 years said she and her husband were left unable to work or access healthcare after the government revoked their UK status because they were unable to provide their passports from 1988.
Modupe Ayo-Adeyemo, 49, who has been referred to the taskforce, said she believed the immigration issues contributed to her husband’s death in March after he was denied a specialist health assessment due to his lack of status.
“I try not to delve too much into the situation. I feel I’ve lost so much, including my husband. I just want my life to move on. I need to know I’m not going to just be uprooted. They’re toying with people’s life and people’s emotion,” said Ms Ayo-Adeyemo, who is mother to two UK-born children.
“Everywhere you turn, they ask for more proof. It’s that hostile environment. They’re saying it’s just the Windrush generation, but it spans much wider. I know loads of Nigerian families that have been affected.”
The Windrush taskforce was set up in the wake of the scandal in April. it applies to Commonwealth citizens who have lived in the UK since before 1973 and people of any nationality who arrived before 1989 and have indefinite leave to remain.
Individuals that are referred to the taskforce are not all, after closer consideration of their circumstances or documents, considered to be Windrush migrants.
Andrew Jordan, immigration manager at Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network, said: “This is a much wider issue than what is being reported. There are multiple different nationalities. There’s a huge part of the iceberg still under the surface that just hasn’t been dealt with.
“The focus in the Home Office at the moment is very much on putting out these little fires before they escalate. Windrush is an example of this. They are on the call not in terms of dealing with substantive problems, but with bad publicity. That’s what they’re focused on.”
He added that, with Brexit on the horizon, there were “significant problems looming”.
“They want to improve public opinion, but the hostile environment still exists. Substantive issues are not being dealt with,” he said.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “This is important information showing just how widespread the Windrush scandal really is.
“Government ministers frequently try to give the impression this only affects people from the Caribbean, almost that you had to have been on the Empire Windrush to qualify. This is completely untrue and it is clear that victims come from all over the Commonwealth. But it is equally clear that any remedy is painfully slow.
“The government still refuses to provide any hardship payments for victims. And unless it ends its hostile environment policy, this scandal and others like it will continue.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary and the immigration minister have been clear that they want to right the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation.
“Our taskforce is helping to ensure that those who have struggled to demonstrate their right to be here are supported to do so. We have launched a public consultation on a compensation scheme for those affected and a lessons-learned review to look at what led to this occurring and ensure that nothing like it happens again.”
Information about the Windrush Scheme, including the nationalities and groups including under “Commonwealth” citizen for the purposes of the scheme, can be found here.
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