Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said an “administrative error” was made in breach of data protection rules when the department sent out an email to individuals and organisations who had registered an interest in being kept informed about it.
“Regrettably, in promoting the scheme via email to interested parties, an administrative error was made which has meant data protection requirements have not been met, for which the Home Office apologises unreservedly,” she said in a written statement.
She said five batches of emails, each with 100 recipients, included other people’s private email addresses. As soon as the problem had been identified the emails were recalled and no other personal data was included, Ms Nokes added.
The compensation scheme, launched last Thursday, is designed to reimburse thousands of Commonwealth citizens for the losses they suffered after being wrongly classified as illegal immigrants.
Home secretary Sajid Javid said payouts would be awarded to anyone who moved to the UK up to 1988 and was wrongly targeted by immigration enforcement, and that there would be no cap on the overall amount of compensation awarded.
But lawyers warned that the absence of an overall cap was a “false dawn”, as the scheme’s rules set out fixed sums on how much compensation can be awarded for different losses.
Ms Nokes said the departmental data protection officer has been informed of the email incident, and that an internal review will be conducted to “ensure this cannot happen again”.
“I am firmly committed to doing right by the Windrush generation,” she said. “The compensation scheme is an important step towards that and I will ensure that action is taken to ensure the highest standards are met not only in the processing of cases, but also in continued efforts to publicise the scheme and ensure those entitled to redress receive it.”
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