iNews | Windrush victims have heard the Government’s promises. Now we know they were all empty


iNews: Windrush victims have heard the Government’s promises. Now we know they were all empty

By Patrick Vernon

In almost five years since the Windrush scandal, the African and Caribbean community has been met with a lot of promises and warm words. First, the assurances came from the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, whose policies helped create the issue in the first place. Then former Home Secretary Priti Patel stated in every speech her commitment to righting these wrongs. Now, after years of insisting otherwise, the Home Office is slowly washing its hands of the issue, last week dropping some of the key recommendations outlined in Wendy Williams’s Windrush Lessons Learned review.

The expression “righting the wrongs” has been used a lot over the centuries, but the version that sticks in my mind came in the late 19th Century, when journalist, educator and early civil rights activist Ida B Wells wrote, in response to the lynchings of African Americans in the south during the 1890s, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

The concept and notion of “righting the wrongs” is based on the principles of restorative justice where the perpetrator admits guilt and works with the victim to coproduce solutions to resolve the injustice. Some means of “righting the wrongs”, particularly in the last 50 years, have manifested in the form of “corporate social responsibility”, affirmative action policies, and wider equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The result? Further trauma and dwindling confidence in politicians and the Government in general. The rejection of a Migrant Commissioner and reconciliation events just goes to show the Home Office is not prepared to be accountable and transparent, nor does it appear to have any desire to listen and learn from the lived experience of survivors and families affected by the scandal – which is, as I see it, one of the biggest abuses of human rights of British citizens in centuries.

April will mark the fifth anniversary of the Windrush Scandal. What we need to do now is renew our energy around campaigning and advocacy to hold both Home Secretary and Prime Minister to account to deliver on their promises. The Black Equity Organisation has already garnered over 50,000 signatures from its petition to demand the Government implements recommendations, and a number of activists are considering a national demonstration on Windrush Day, 22 June (first established in the 1980s by the late Sam King MBE, Second World War veteran and passenger on the Empire Windrush), to put further pressure on Suella Braverman to do the right thing.

The UN working group of experts on people of African descent has already found that “racism in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is structural, institutional and systemic” and that “people of African descent…continue to encounter racial discrimination and erosion of their fundamental rights”. It has also made recommendations, due to be outlined in its 2023 report, that the Government must commit to reconciliation events to build trust with the Windrush Generation if they are serious about learning the lessons from the scandal.

It is ironic that as we approach the 75th anniversary of the docking of the Empire Windrush ship at Tilbury, which ushered in a new period of British history, this Government is now making choices that are reminiscent of colonial attitudes and anti-Blackness, the same treatment that my parents and many others from the Windrush Generation received. The Home Office cannot be trusted. We need major structural reforms around its leadership, admission that it’s institutionally racist and a change in the Home Secretary’s hostile behaviour and language towards migrants and refugees. Anything less will amount to pure gaslighting.

Patrick Vernon OBE is a British social commentator and activist. He played a key role in campaigning for a national Windrush Day on 22 June


Originally posted on Inews