The Guardian: Civil rights group launches legal action over ‘shattered’ Windrush promises

The Guardian: Civil rights group launches legal action over ‘shattered’ Windrush promises

The Home Office has abandoned three recommendations from Wendy Williams’s Windrush report. Photograph: Home Office

A leading civil rights group has launched legal action against the home secretary over her decision to abandon several crucial reform commitments made as a result of the Windrush scandal.

The action by the Black Equity Organisation (BEO) comes as a petition with 50,000 signatories urging Suella Braverman to reconsider is to be delivered to Downing Street later on Thursday.

It will be delivered along with a letter to the prime minister signed by Windrush survivors and celebrities such as the actor Adjoa Andoh, the Olympian Dame Denise Lewis and the historian David Olusoga.

The letter states: “The Windrush scandal came to light in 2018 and following the government commissioned independent review by Wendy Williams, the then home secretary vowed to ‘listen and act’.

“That promise has been shattered by the current home secretary, who has abandoned three of the key recommendations from the Williams review. This a kick in the teeth to the Windrush generation, to whom our country owes such a huge debt of gratitude.”

In January, Braverman confirmed she would not implement two changes from Williams’s review that would have increased independent scrutiny of Home Office policies on migration, and a third promise to run reconciliation events with Windrush families.

The organisation, created to advance justice and equity for black people in Britain, sent legal papers to the secretary of state earlier this week. They are seeking a judicial review of the “unlawful decision” to limit scrutiny of the Home Office and shut victims out of the reconciliation process.

“The home secretary’s decision has shown that allowing the Home Office to be in charge of cleaning up its own mess and recompensing the Windrush generation would result in the internal needs of the department trumping those of the victims,” said Wanda Wyporska, chief executive of the BEO.

The 30 recommendations were accepted three years ago by the government after a formal inquiry by Williams examined the scandal under which the Home Office erroneously classified legal residents, many of whom arrived from Caribbean countries as children in the 1950s and 60s, as immigrants living in the UK illegally.

The Windrush Lessons Learned Review found the Home Office had broken pledges to transform its culture and become more compassionate after the Windrush inquiry. In a progress report published in 2022, Williams concluded the government had met or partly met 21 of the 30 recommendations.

“The home secretary’s decision to disregard three of the report recommendations is an echo of the very insensitivity cited in the Williams Review,” said Wyporska.

The January announcement drew immediate scrutiny from the head of the inquiry into the Windrush debacle and other public figures who expressed disappointment and dismay over Braverman’s decision to not follow through with the recommendations.

The latest opposition comes in the run-up to the 75th anniversary of the Empire Windrush ship’s arrival in the UK and as Rishi Sunak’s government has come under intense scrutiny by the United Nations refugee agency and others over an illegal migration bill to stop small boats from crossing the Channel.

The Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon said as the fifth anniversary of the scandal approaches there is still no justice or reconciliation with the survivors and those affected by one of the biggest human rights abuses in Britain.

“We call on the government to implement all recommendations of the lessons learned review and to establish a process to transfer the Windrush compensation scheme to an independent body or agency to build confidence and fast-track payments to survivors and family members,” said Vernon.

The Home Office said it remained committed to righting the wrongs of Windrush and had paid or offered more than £64m to those affected.

“We are making good progress towards the vast majority of recommendations from Wendy Williams’s report, and believe there are more meaningful ways of achieving the intent of a very small number of others,” it said.

“Through this work, we will make sure that similar injustices can never be repeated and are creating a Home Office worthy of every community it serves.”

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