A Jamaican-born man who is a victim of the Windrush scandal and was denied re-entry to the United Kingdom in 2017, has lambasted the Windrush Compensation Scheme.
Leeford Hammond, a 65-year-old resident of north London, UK, is calling for the scheme to be reviewed after he endured two years of waiting for an offer for compensation.
Speaking with UK publication, The Voice Online, Hammond explained that he applied to the scheme in April 2019 after he was denied entry back into the UK after a holiday in Jamaica in 2017.
Hammond, a father of five children, detailed how “he was in Jamaica for six months and was forced to close his estate agent business of 12 years after he couldn’t return to London,” reported The Voice Online.
Eventually he was granted a visa in October 2017, and returned to the UK, but upon arrival, he found his business in ruin, and he had rent arrears, which put him at risk of losing his home, it was reported.
In February 2021, Hammond was offered £40,000 (approximately J$8.4 million), but he slammed the offer, claiming that it did not take into account the full extent of his circumstances.
“This offer is not good enough,” Hammond was quoted as saying in an interview with The Voice Online that was published on Thursday.
“I would like to see the compensation scheme handed to an independent body who can do a better job,” he continued.
“The (UK) Home Office keeps making low offers and they are being rejected, and then we have to wait again. We need someone to take over who can get things right the first time,” the Jamaican elaborated.
Hammond said he came to Britain from Jamaica in 1971 when he was 15 years old, with his two brothers. They came to join their parents and two older sisters who arrived in the 1960s.
But for the Jamaican man, despite “living and working in the United Kingdom for over 40 years and having indefinite leave to remain,” he felt unwelcomed.
Due to his family’s “immeasurable financial and emotional strain,” Hammond said his daughter has also applied to the Windrush Compensation Scheme, but she is yet to get an offer.
The long and agonising wait for answers has seen many Windrush victims die before they receive compensation, The Voice Online cited.
“According the latest Home Office figures, more than 500 victims of the Windrush Scandal have been waiting for more than a year to have their compensation claims processed,” the report stated.
“But it’s not just the long wait and small pay-outs that are affecting victims, many are being denied British citizenship because they are failing to meet the ‘good character’ requirement,” the news report added.
Hammond told The Voice Online that he was similarly denied British citizenship, despite him qualifying. However, he was given a “No Time Limit (NTL) card instead”.
He said he will be appealing that decision, expressing hope that he will be finally granted citizenship.
In using Hammond’s case and others as examples, prominent Windrush campaigner and social commentator, Patrick Vernon, said the Windrush Compensation Scheme was not working.
Against that background, he has been urging persons to sign his petition aimed at assigning the scheme to an independent body instead of the UK Home Office.
Thousands of persons who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, have been labelled the Windrush generation.
The UK Home Office reportedly kept no records of those granted leave to remain in the country and issued no paperwork to them. This made it difficult for Windrush generation arrivals to prove their legal status.
In 2010, it was claimed that landing cards belonging to members of the Windrush generation were destroyed by the Home Office.
Many of the migrants who came before their respective islands were granted independence from Britain, thought they were British citizens.
However, several of them were told that they needed documents proving their citizenship to continue residing and working in the UK, among other things.
This led to what was eventually termed as the Windrush scandal.