Home secretary apologises to more Windrush citizens – but campaigners warn many victims still suffering

Sajid Javid says their treatment has been “completely unacceptable” and promised compensation

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Monday 10 June 2019 22:07
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Why is the Home Office getting so many immigration decisions wrong?

The home secretary has apologised to more Windrush victims as his department revealed that 6,400 people have been granted status under the dedicated scheme.

Fourteen months after the scandal erupted, Sajid Javid has sent apology letters to another 49 victims – taking the total number to 67 – saying their treatment has been “completely unacceptable” and that they would receive support and access to the compensation scheme.

But charities and immigration lawyers are worried that a large number of people affected have either not come forward due to a lack of support, are still waiting for decisions on their case due to delays, or have been wrongly refused under the scheme.

Figures published by the Home Office in its latest Windrush update show nearly one in five applications – or 457 out of 2,467 – have taken longer than the target two-week decision time, with lawyers telling of numerous cases which have taken more than six months and in one case a year.

There is also concern over the high proportion of overseas applications which have not been accepted, with new figures showing 649 out-of-country applications have been declined, while just 109 have been granted.

Zoe Gardner, policy adviser at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said it was “alarming” that so many people making out-of-country applications under the Windrush Scheme were being refused.

“The government’s reluctance to extend Legal Aid to people making these applications, combined with their refusal to conduct a full review of historical cases, suggests their interest lies in avoiding further bad press for the Home Office,” she added.

The update also reveals that of nearly 100 applications for urgent support from Windrush victims, 13 have been approved and 41 have been declined, which Yvette Cooper MP, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, described as “troubling”.

“It’s worrying that the Home Office is still failing to provide vital support to the Windrush generation ... More than 12 months on from the Windrush scandal only very few people are being supported for the hardship they have endured,” she said.

“Now that the compensation scheme has finally been established after months of delay, it’s vital that the Home Office is making every effort to direct Windrush citizens to that support and proactively offering it to them.”

Jacqueline McKenzie, an immigration solicitor who is supporting Windrush victims, said: “We’ve had quite a lot of apologies from the home secretary and the government but we’re a long way off seeing a satisfactory resolution for those affected by the Windrush scandal.

“The statistics are difficult to assess in isolation but they suggest that based on census data, there must still be a large number of people who have not come forward and that might have something to do with confidence or trust.

“Some people look at how their peers are treated and conclude that it’s not worth getting involved which does not bode well for the future.”

She told of one client who had been waiting for over a year for a decision on his application and others more than six months – in cases she considered to be “straightforward”.

Ms McKenzie also cited the case of a Canada-based Caribbean client who, despite being a holder of a British passport, had been refused under the scheme.

“The right to return to the UK and the figures for the hardship fund are still too low, especially when we see so many people struggling, people who in any event will have valid compensation claims,” she added.

It comes after the Home Office was referred to the equalities watchdog over the Windrush scandal and the wider “hostile environment” strategy, with more than 80 cross-party MPs calling for an investigation into whether the department unlawfully discriminated against people as a “direct result” of its immigration policies.

A Home Office spokesperson said none of the refusal decisions had been made lightly and that refusals were only made in cases where they were certain the cases did not meet policy and guidance on Windrush, which has been “designed to be generous”.

They added that all decisions under the Urgent and Exceptional Payments policy received “extensive scrutiny” and that requests were only declined when the circumstances surrounding the claim were “not exceptional”.

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