The Home Office has stopped recording the number of Windrush people who have died before receiving compensation they had applied for, prompting renewed concern ministers are attempting to “avoid scrutiny”.
The Windrush compensation scheme was set up in April 2019 to compensate thousands of Commonwealth nationals who had been wrongly classified as illegal immigrants in Britain, preventing them from working and accessing services, and sometimes leading to them being detained and threatened with deportation.
Last July, Priti Patel confirmed that five individuals had passed away while waiting on their compensation claims in response to a parliamentary written question requesting the figure.
However, in response to the same question submitted on Monday, the home secretary said the information was “not included in statistical data published by the Home Office” and that she could not provide it.
The latest official data shows that only one in five of the Windrush victims who have applied for compensation have so far received payments, with more than 1,500 people still waiting. Less than £6.2m has been paid out of the £200m promised to victims two years after the scheme began.
Data obtained by the BBC through a freedom of information request last year shows that at least nine people had died before receiving Windrush compensation as at 31 August.
Among those who have died is Sarah O’Connor, Hubert Howard and Richard Stewart, all of whom have spoken to the media about the difficulties they faced after being treated as illegal immigrants in Britain.
Stuart McDonald, SNP MP and a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, who submitted the parliamentary question, said Ms Patel’s answer was “ludicrous”, adding: “It is precisely because it does not routinely publish the information that it is necessary to use PQs to get it.
“Progress with the scheme has been so painfully slow it is essential for MPs to scrutinise it closely.”
Mary Atkinson, campaign officer at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said it was “typical” of the Home Office to “hide” the figures in a bid to “avoid public scrutiny”, and said it proved that “absolutely no lessons have been learned” from the scandal.
“If the government truly wanted to respect and protect the Windrush generation, they would ensure that victims of the scandal can access adequate compensation, without waiting years,” she added.
“The victims of this scandal need justice, now, not apologies and a years-long wait for meagre compensation.”
Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon OBE echoed her remarks, saying it was “outrageous” that the Home Office had stopped recording the data and that it indicated a “lack of accountability and scrutiny” in the government’s response to the Windrush scandal.
“The Home Office are still treating the victims of the Windrush scandal like benefit scroungers in the delivery of the Windrush compensation scheme,” he said.
He added: “The scheme should be removed from the Home Office and managed independently to provide trust, respect and confidence to the victims and the families.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has been clear that the mistreatment of the Windrush generation by successive governments was completely unacceptable and she is righting those wrongs.
“The Windrush Compensation Scheme has, to the end of February 2021, paid or offered almost £18 million pounds.
“Where someone sadly passes away before their application can be completed we provide support to their family so that the family can be fully compensated for any losses they have suffered.”