Windrush justice taking ‘far too long’, says Labour leader

Justice for the Windrush community “has taken far too long”, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.

Saturday June 22 marks 76 years since passengers disembarked from HMT Empire Windrush in Tilbury, Essex, many of them arriving from the Caribbean to plug a labour shortage in the UK.

A scandal emerged in 2018 when some members of the Windrush generation were wrongly detained, deported or threatened with deportation despite having the right to work in the UK, after the Home Office made an “operational decision” to destroy registry slips some years beforehand.

In January this year, the Conservative Government’s legal migration minister Tom Pursglove told the Commons the Windrush Compensation Scheme was aware of 53 claimants who had died after they submitted a claim.

A black and white photo of HMT Empire Windrush - HMT Empire Windrush
HMT Empire Windrush in Southampton in 1954 (PA)

On the General Election campaign trail, Labour figures have committed to “appointing a Windrush commissioner, who will be a voice for affected families and communities, monitor the operation and delivery of the compensation scheme, and oversee a major change programme in the Home Office”.

The party has also said it would look at ways to streamline the Government’s compensation application form, improve language support for claimants, speed up compensation, an implement the recommendations which Wendy Williams made in her independent Windrush Lessons Learned Review.

The probe, published in 2020, made 30 recommendations, among them that the Home Office “should invest in improving data quality, management information and performance measures” and that Government officials should “undertake a full review and evaluation of the hostile/compliant environment policy and measures”.

Sir Keir said in a statement: “The Windrush generation embodies the best of Britain: determination, spirit, public service and graft.

“But instead of being thanked, they’ve been badly mistreated. A Labour government will offer a fundamental reset moment for the Windrush generation, with respect and dignity at its very core.

“This means urgent reform of the compensation scheme to make it more efficient, with better support for applicants. It means restoring the Windrush Unit to the Home Office, and a Windrush commissioner to be the voice of families affected.

“Justice has taken far too long for the Windrush community.

“A government that I lead won’t let this happen again. Where the Tories have dragged their feet, I am determined to get money out the door to compensate those who were failed by the state.

“Standards of integrity and honesty should be at the forefront of public life.

“We have to return government to the service of working people, with a clean-up that restores trust in our systems, working with people rather than doing things to them.

“That’s what I learned in Northern Ireland and the CPS – that’s how I’ve changed the Labour Party, and how I hope to change the country.”

Other political parties have committed to supporting the Windrush generation in their manifestos.

The Conservative Party’s document reads: “We want to make sure our immigration system is fair and will continue delivering the Windrush Compensation Scheme.”

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto commits the party to implementing “the Windrush Lessons Learned Review in full, without further delay” and ensuring “victims of the Windrush scandal get the compensation they are entitled to by making the compensation scheme independent of the Home Office”.

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