Windrush citizens are being forced to wait months for their immigration cases to be resolved despite a government pledge to process them in two weeks, The Independent can reveal.
Scores of people who were referred to the Windrush taskforce in the wake of the scandal have been left in limbo, leading to accusations that the Home Office’s “chaotic” response is forcing Commonwealth citizens into “distress and destitution”.
In one case, an NHS dental assistant who came to Britain from Jamaica in 1966 is still waiting to hear from the taskforce more than two months after being referred, causing him continued emotional and financial stress.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott wrote to Sajid Javid on 18 July informing him that four of her constituents – all Caribbean nationals who arrived in the UK before 1973 – were still waiting for a response after being referred as early as April, when the taskforce was set up.
The Labour MP is yet to receive a response from the home secretary, and the individuals concerned are still awaiting news about their immigration cases.
Despite claims by the Home Office that it aims to resolve all Windrush cases within two weeks, figures published by the department reveal the proportion of cases that exceed this time limit has steadily increased, from 3 per cent (41 of 1,294) during May to 16 per cent (113 of 690) in June.
The delays will fuel mounting concerns around the Home Office’s response to the Windrush crisis, which has seen people who arrived from the Caribbean between the late 1940s and early 1970s routinely targeted by immigration officials.
The Independent revealed earlier this week that the Home Office was “gagging” victims of the Windrush scandal in return for fast-track compensation, despite Mr Javid pledging that no one would be asked to sign any kind of non-disclosure agreement.
The home secretary has also been criticised for slamming the brakes on an official scheme to compensate members of the Windrush generation – and for planning to cap their payments.
Donald Thompson, 64, who came to the UK from Jamaica in 1966 to join his Windrush mother, had his biometrics taken by the Windrush team at the end of May and was told a decision would be made about his case in two weeks. But no decision has been made after more than two months.
The NHS dental assistant has had his applications for British citizenship repeatedly refused over 28 years. He is unable to obtain a driver’s license due to his immigration status and has been detained and threatened with deportation in recent years.
“I have spent about £30,000 on Home Office legal and application fees trying to settle my case over the years. I’ve had countless distress, I’ve had letters sent to me saying I’m not legal. It’s absolutely disgraceful. I can’t find words for it,” Mr Thompson told The Independent.
“After the Windrush issue came to light I was expecting it to be sorted out. The prime minister stood up in parliament and said anyone who came here before 1973 is British. They haven’t fulfilled their promises.
“They have all the information they need about me. They have everything. There’s no doubt that I was here before 1973. They say they’re looking into it – looking into what?”
The 64-year-old, who went to school in Tottenham where his mother worked as an auxiliary nurse, said he submitted his Jamaican passport to the Home Office on its request in 2008 and has not received it back.
“I didn’t come to this country on a boat or on the back of a truck; it was on the invitation of the British government. But I’ve lost out financially. I’ve been let down,” he added.
“They’ve put me through endless pain and financial stress. It’s unspeakable. And they are still, for some reason or another, continuing it.”
Ms Abbott said the delays were “completely unacceptable”, adding: “This Tory Home Office has proven consistently that it is not fit for purpose.
“From the Windrush scandal to immigration detention, to these outrageous delays – it is long past time that the government takes responsibility for leaving people distressed and destitute.”
Referring to the case of Mr Thompson, who is a member of her constituency, the Labour MP said: “People are literally paying thousands of pounds and receiving a chaotic service in return.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “In his letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee in July, the Home Secretary made clear that the Taskforce aims to complete the decision-making process within two weeks of all the evidence being gathered. Some decisions will fall outside these timescales due to their complexity, but for those completed within two weeks the vast majority have been completed on the same day.
“The experiences faced by some members of the Windrush generation are inexcusable and it is clear that we must do what is needed to ensure that nothing like this happens again. The Home Secretary has said that it is his top priority to right the wrongs that have occurred.”
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