Home Office admits it has made no attempt to inform Commonwealth deportees about Windrush taskforce

Exclusive: ‘There might be people out there now who do have the right to be here but don’t know. This raises fundamental issues about the lack of commitment and urgency in this scandal’

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 28 November 2018 18:49 GMT
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The immigration minister admitted the department had made ‘no specific attempt’ to inform 49 people confirmed to have been removed to Nigeria and Ghana last year that the Windrush settlement scheme had been established
The immigration minister admitted the department had made ‘no specific attempt’ to inform 49 people confirmed to have been removed to Nigeria and Ghana last year that the Windrush settlement scheme had been established (AFP)

The Home Office has made no attempt to inform people deported to Commonwealth countries that the Windrush taskforce exists, prompting concerns that people who were wrongly removed do not know they can have their cases looked into.

The immigration minister admitted the department had made “no specific attempt” to inform 49 people confirmed to have been removed to Nigeria and Ghana last year that the Windrush settlement scheme had been established.

Caroline Nokes said individuals who believe they qualify under the Windrush criteria could access the relevant information on the government website, saying it was regularly updated with information about how to apply for status.

Campaigners said it was “ridiculous” to expect people who had been wrongly deported to visit the government’s website without being notified about it, and accused ministers of having “learnt nothing” from the Windrush crisis.

People from Nigeria and Ghana are among the Commonwealth nationalities that have been caught up in the scandal, which has seen people who were invited from former British colonies to live and work in the UK after the Second World War targeted by immigration enforcement despite living in the country for decades.

The Independent recently revealed that nearly half of overseas enquiries to the government’s Windrush taskforce are from countries outside the Caribbean, indicating that the immigration issues span beyond the West Indies.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who obtained the response from Ms Nokes in a written question, said: “It doesn’t seem much to ask for the government to tell people they’ve kicked out of the country that the Windrush taskforce exists.

“Ministers know their treatment of the Windrush generation is a national disgrace. That they haven’t bothered to contact people who’ve been deported suggests the government hasn’t learnt anything from the public backlash against its hostile environment.”

Windrush campaigner and ex-Labour councillor Patrick Vernon said the response from Ms Nokes showed the Home Office was “failing” in its commitment to resolve the Windrush issue.

“After the scandal broke, ministers apologised and pledged to ‘right to wrongs’, saying people who have been deported should be given the option of coming back and being recognised as part of the compensation scheme,” he said.

“They’re not righting the wrongs, and they’re failing in their commitment to resolve the Windrush scandal. It’s not just people who have been treated shoddily in the UK. It’s people who have been deported or refused entry back into the country. All of them should be treated on equal footing.

“There might be people out there now who do have the right to be here but don’t know. This raises fundamental issues about the lack of commitment and urgency in this scandal.”

He added: “With all due respect, if you’re living in a community in the middle of Nigeria, are you going to go onto the UK government website and do a search under Windrush? Let’s be real.

“To expect people to do a search on Google and find the government website link, without being told they should do so, is just ridiculous.”

Mr Vernon added that while Caribbean leaders had been made very aware of the issues, there had been considerably less effort from the UK government to reach out other Commonwealth countries in Africa, which many people left for Britain in the 1960s.

“Although the focus has been on the Caribbean, this is about black migration and other migrants from different parts of the former colonies who came here decades ago,” he said.

“They’ve defined the issue very narrowly around the Caribbean community, and by doing that they’re creating a divide-and-rule scenario whereby they say the Windrush scandal is only Caribbean-related.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Any individual who believes they are protected under the provisions of the 1971 Immigration Act is able to contact the Windrush taskforce, who will help to identify their current status.”

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