Home Office faces investigation over Windrush scandal from equalities watchdog

MPs call for investigation into whether department unlawfully discriminated against the Windrush generation and continues to discriminate against ethnic minority Britons as a ‘direct result’ of hostile environment

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 01 May 2019 15:52 BST
Why is the Home Office getting so many immigration decisions wrong?

The Home Office has been referred to the equalities watchdog due to the Windrush scandal and wider “hostile environment”.

More than 80 MPs from six political parties have called on the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to investigate whether the department unlawfully discriminated against the Windrush generation and continues to discriminate against ethnic minority Britons as a “direct result” of its immigration policies.

In a letter by Labour MP David Lammy – chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community – 87 MPs argue the government is acting unlawfully and in breach of equalities legislation by “routinely” discriminating against British citizens on the basis of their race.

They have called on the EHRC to act “fearlessly and robustly” to expose the role of the Home Office in the development and operation of the hostile environment policy, as well as its impact on the Windrush generation and their descendants, and the department’s “wilful disregard” of its public sector equality duty.

Mr Lammy said: “The gross mishandling and abuse of the Windrush generation by the Home Office raises serious questions over whether British citizens were discriminated against on the basis of their race and ethnicity, in breach of equalities legislation.

“More than a year after I first raised this in parliament, nothing has changed. Justice must mean not only due compensation and reparation, but changes to the institution and immigration laws that created this crisis.

“This is why we are calling on the EHRC to investigate the Home Office, and in particular the hostile environment legislation, which appears to have led to discriminatory treatment against ethnic minority British citizens.”

MPs argue the Home Office has breached equalities law and the public sector equality duty, which commits public bodies to have “due regard” to the need to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic, including ethnic minorities, and those who do not.

They have asked the EHRC to investigate the treatment of the Windrush generation and, more widely, whether the implementation of the Conservatives’ hostile environment policies – which transfer immigration control functions to private citizens such as landlords, employers and NHS staff – represents institutional racism.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary and the immigration minister are committed to righting the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation, and the recently launched compensation scheme is a crucial step in delivering on that commitment.

“The Windrush generation have given so much to this country and we will ensure nothing like this ever happens again, that is why the home secretary commissioned a lessons-learned review with independent oversight.”

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