Suella Braverman facing legal action over broken Windrush pledges

Suella Braverman rowed back on recommendations made following a scathing review into how the Windrush scandal unfolded

Nadine White
Race Correspondent
Thursday 06 April 2023 06:09 BST

Related: ‘Go away’: Sunak and Braverman heckled during visit to Chelmsford

Suella Braverman is facing legal action on the eve of the Windrush scandal anniversary for refusing to implement all the recommendations from an independent review into the government’s wrongdoing.

The Black Equity Organisation (BEO) is seeking a judicial review over the home secretary over her decision to row back on accepted recommendations made following a scathing review into how the Windrush scandal unfolded at the Home Office.

In January, she dropped a commitment to establish a migrants’ commissioner — a decision which has been criticised by the head of the Windrush inquiry.

Mr Braverman has also chosen not to increase the powers of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICIBI) or to hold reconciliation events with the Windrush community.

BEO, which launched as the UK’s first Black civil rights charity in May 2022, claims that Ms Braverman’s actions are “unlawful”.

Dr Wanda Wyporska, the charity’s chief executive, said: “The home secretary’s decision to disregard three of the report recommendations is an echo of the very insensitivity cited in the Williams Review.

“Victims have been campaigning for years for justice. They’ve been fighting to have their voices heard and their cases resolved. The home secretary’s decision has shown that allowing the Home Office to be in charge of cleaning up its own mess and recompensing the Windrush generation, would result in the internal needs of the department trumping those of the victims.

“The Home Office must be opened up to independent scrutiny and forced to honour the promises made in its name. Windrush survivors have been through enough and this latest twist in a shameful story adds insult to injury.”

Legal papers from the charity cite the “chilling attempt” by Ms Braverman to limit the independent and robust scrutiny of the Home Office, shut victims out of the reconciliation process and continue with the policy, without assessing or understanding the impact it will have on victims.

The equality act invokes a legal obligation for the government to treat people fairly; the BEO argues that the government is in breach of this because the home secretary’s U-turn, which it says will have a discriminatory impact on the Windrush generation and their family members.

It added that the Windrush generation is being treated less favourably on the grounds of their Windrush status, which it said breached their human rights.

The Home Secretary said she would not be going ahead with three reforms which were previously agreed in the wake of the Windrush scandal (John Sibley/PA)

Earlier this year, the government admitted that measures under the Home Office’s hostile environment policy “may disproportionately impact on people of colour”.

This policy gave rise to the Windrush scandal which erupted in 2018 and saw British citizens, mostly from the Caribbean, wrongly detained, deported or threatened with deportation, despite having the right to live in Britain. Many lost homes and jobs, and were denied access to healthcare and benefits.

In 2018, solicitor Wendy Williams conducted an independent review and produced a report which cited “a culture of disbelief and carelessness” in the Home Office, with its failings ‘demonstrating an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation’. 

Ms Williams made 30 recommendations to the Home Office, all accepted by former home secretary Priti Patel, that would see the department acknowledge the wrongs done, open itself up to greater external scrutiny and develop a more humane culture.

The legal action comes as Black communities mark the five-year anniversary of the exposure of the Windrush scandal. 

As part of the ongoing campaign to secure justice for victims, a petition signed by over 50,000 people, urging Ms Braverman to rethink her decision, will be delivered to No 10 Downing Street at 11 am on Thursday.

A letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, signed by Windrush survivors, community groups and celebrities, including actor David Harewood, professor David Olusoga, singer Beverley Knight, Bridgerton actors Adjoa Andoh and Golda Rosheuvel and artistic director of the Young Vic Kwame Kwei-Armah, will also be delivered. 

Patrick Vernon, Windrush campaigner and social commentator said: “As we approach the 5th anniversary of the Windrush Scandal there is no still justice or even reconciliation with the survivors, family members affected and the wider Windrush Generation to resolve one of the biggest human rights abuses and structural racism in Britain over the last 75 years, since the arrival of Empire Windrush.

“We call on the government  to implement all recommendations of Lessons Learned Review and to establish a process to transfer Windrush Compensation scheme to an independent body or agency to build confidence and fast track payments to survivors and family members.”

It comes after a national monument, sponsored by the government to the tune of £1 million, was unveiled in Waterloo station in “tribute to the dreams, ambition, courage and resilience” of the Windrush generation.

Numerous Black journalists of Caribbean descent were not invited to the unveiling nor were those who had been critical of the Home Office.

Meanwhile, victims of the scandal still await compensation for their suffering.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

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