Braverman dropping Windrush measures was unlawful, court told

<span>Suella Braverman decided not to implement three recommendations intended to repair some of the ‘monumental harm’ done to the Windrush generation.</span><span>Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Suella Braverman decided not to implement three recommendations intended to repair some of the ‘monumental harm’ done to the Windrush generation.Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

A decision made by the former home secretary Suella Braverman to drop three recommendations intended to repair some of the “monumental harm” done to the Windrush generation was unlawful, the high court has been told.

The Home Office committed itself to a comprehensive improvement programme in response to the Windrush scandal, which had a severely discriminatory impact on a cohort of people who had lived in the UK since childhood, many of whom were arrested, detained, removed from the UK, or sacked from their jobs, made homeless and denied NHS treatment, the court heard.

The abandonment of key reform pledges was discriminatory and was one of many examples of broken promises made by the government to the Windrush generation, the court was told.

Windrush victim Trevor Donald, 68, was caught up in a “dystopian nightmare” when he found himself stranded in Jamaica for nine years after travelling back to the country that he had left 43 years earlier as an 11-year-old. Donald had attempted to secure a UK passport when his mother was critically ill in 2010, but was unable to get one, and his mother died in Jamaica before he was able to travel to visit her.

He chose to return to the island for her funeral, using emergency travel documents but was subsequently denied permission to return home until British officials accepted that he had the right to live in the UK, after the exposé of the Windrush scandal; he was allowed back to Britain in 2019.

In the interim, he lost his council flat, and his relationships with his children were damaged. He was only finally granted British citizenship in January 2022. He is bringing a legal claim against the Home Office, alleging unlawful discrimination in the decision not to proceed with all of the recommendations, which were designed to make sure there could be no repeat of the scandal.

As a result of the Windrush row, in which thousands of legal UK residents were misclassified as illegal immigrants, an independent review was commissioned from the solicitor Wendy Williams to establish what had caused the scandal and to ensure that it could never be repeated. All 30 recommendations for Home Office reform were accepted by the former home secretary Priti Patel.

But subsequently Braverman decided not to implement a commitment to organise a programme of reconciliation events, with meetings between members of the Windrush generation and senior Home Office staff and ministers so they could articulate the impact of the scandal on their lives (recommendation 3).

Braverman also decided not to appoint a migrants’ commissioner, who was going to be responsible for identifying systemic concerns and to act as an advocate for migrants (recommendation 9) and she declined to change the remit of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, with a view to giving the role more power (recommendation 10).

Phillippa Kaufmann KC, acting for Donald, said Home Office staff became uneasy in the summer of 2022 when it became clear that despite repeated commitments from ministers that all 30 recommendations were being implemented, little progress was being made with some of them. One official warned that continued claims that the department was progressing with all recommendations risked going “against the civil service value of ‘honesty’” and recommended that staff needed to “amend our public lines to reduce the risk of the department being seen as ‘lying’”.

Nicola Braganza KC, for the Black Equity Organisation (BEO), which is supporting the action, said: “This decision – breaking a clear and repeated promise and public commitment – and the way in which it was taken, without due consultation, left Mr Donald, BEO and members of the Windrush and black communities feeling ‘extremely disappointed’, ‘shocked and angered’ and ‘betrayed’.”

A petition signed by more than 53,000 people was delivered by BEO to Downing Street last April, asking the Home Office not to abandon the recommendations.

Arguing that the decision represented direct discrimination against Donald and other black and Asian communities, Braganza added: “The abandonment of the recommendations, designed to redress the historic mistreatment of the Windrush generation, is another example of the broken promises that particularly the Windrush cohort has faced, and that white British citizens have not and would not be subjected to.”

Edward Brown KC, acting for the Home Office, said the department was not obliged to implement a policy “which it no longer considers to be in the public interest”. He said Williams’ “recommendations were not legally binding and there was no obligation on the government to implement the recommendations”.

The hearing before Mrs Justice Heather Williams is due to conclude on Wednesday with a decision expected in writing at a later date.