Amber Rudd Apologised For Windrush 1 Year Ago Today – But For Victims, What's Changed?

"They’re apologising but we are still suffering."

“I might be ‘British’ now, holding this passport, but I am still broke,” Sonia Williams says.

The 58-year-old, who came to the UK from Barbados in 1975, is speaking one year after Amber Rudd made an unprecedented apology for the “appalling” treatment of Windrush-era citizens, and promised to set up a new department to help people establish their rights to stay in the UK.

“What has the passport given me? The only thing it has saved me from is them knocking my door down to deport me. I lived with that fear for many years,” Williams, who had been fighting to prove she was British since 2014, added.

″There’s nothing that the government can do to fully make amends; no one knows what I’ve been put through mentally,” she told HuffPost UK.

The origins of the Windrush scandal date back to the immigration policies implemented by post-war governments, when people had been encouraged to settle in the UK, but were then later falsely declared to be illegal immigrants.

While people who had settled in the UK prior to 1 January 1973, and their family members, were entitled to live permanently in the UK, this was by virtue of an immigration status rather than a right of citizenship.

From Rudd’s resignation, to compensation and support for victims, we survey how much has changed in the year since the scandal broke.

Home Office apology

In her apology, Amber Rudd said she was “concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy, and sometimes lose sight of the individual”.

The next day Theresa May met and apologised to twelve Caribbean heads of government.

The prime minister said she was “genuinely” sorry about the anxiety caused by the Home Office threatening the children of Commonwealth citizens with deportation.

But campaigners remain sceptical at the efforts to turn those words into practice over the last year.

Patrick Vernon, a figurehead in the fight for justice for Windrush victims, told HuffPost UK: “After 12 months what would be our assessment of progress? Well just over 4,000 people have had citizenship but over 500 cases have been refused mainly with minor convictions.

“There are many thousands of people that have still not come forward to resolve their status as there is still lack of trust with the Home Office and public bodies who implement the hostile environment policy and procedures.”

He added that the Home Office had not “fully engaged” or provided additional resources for victims.

“This has been left either to the Guardian Charity Appeal, Greater London Authority, philanthropists, local authorities and the Windrush Justice Fund to provide additional funding or to raise money to support the third sector to meet the unprecedented demand for help,” he said.

Evening Standard


On 23 April, Amber Rudd announced she would waive Home Office fees and citizenship tests for members of the Windrush generation and their children to become British citizens; and ensure people who had been wrongly expelled or excluded from the UK were able to return without having to pay fees. She also announced there would be compensation.

Rudd wrote to the prime minister to resign as home secretary. She was replaced by the current home secretary, Sajid Javid, who promised to make good on the commitments his predecessor had made.

Shortly after, Javid announced a ‘Windrush lessons learned review’ would be conducted by the Home Office and an independent adviser was appointed on 22 June 2018; terms of reference for the review published on 19 July 2018; and a call for evidence issued on 20 August 2018.

The home office then opened a consultation on setting up a compensation scheme.

On 24 May 2018, Javid announced the Windrush Scheme (which opened on 30 May) under which people who had settled in the UK prior to 31 December 1988 could apply for free for documentation confirming British citizenship or their right to live permanently in the UK.

He also laid regulations before parliament to waive the fee (and knowledge of language and life in the UK tests) for certain Commonwealth citizens to naturalise as British citizens.

Sajid Javid
Sajid Javid
HuffPost UK

After living in the UK for more than 50 years, Glenda Caesar lost her NHS job, as a doctor’s practice administrator because she did not have a British passport.

Still reeling from the effects of having to fight to remain in the country where she’s built a life, she has a dim view of how much has developed since last April.

“The only thing that’s changed is that some people who were wronged by this have now been naturalised, given citizenship and/or passports. But nothing else has changed because there’s people who are still broken, financially in problems,” she told HuffPost UK.

″Rudd’s apology meant nothing because it’s something that shouldn’t have happened in the first place; [...] they’re apologising but we are still suffering.”

PA Archive/PA Images


On 3 April, the Home Office officially launched the Windrush Compensation scheme which has been heavily criticised for limits imposed on payments and evidential barriers to securing payment.

Speaking at the time, Windrush lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie, who has represented several families in their fight for justice, also voiced concern about it.

“It has been launched some 12 months after the scandal hit the news – that’s a very long time for people who have been suffering and destitute to have waited and this must surely act as aggravating feature of any claims,” she told HuffPost UK.

“We’ll have to see how the scheme works, but our evidence from the failure of the hardship fund [set up to help victims left out-of-pocket] has me extremely worried and I have seen, first hand, in the past few days, the incompetence of Home Office staff.

“The lack of respect for those affected by the scandal which has me even more concerned than I had been a few weeks ago,” she added.

Vernon Vanriel, who was one of dozens wrongly stripped of their rights by the Home Office, told HuffPost UK last week that he had not been officially made unaware of the compensation scheme.

“The government has not once been in touch with me. Would you believe it? The lack of communications that I had is sickening really. It makes me feel abandoned, unwanted, unloved and uncared for,” he said.

“I don’t know how the compensation scheme is going to work. I’ve got no address of where the meeting is taking place, what time... I wasn’t invited. I am in the dark, really.

“The Home Office have not even said sorry for the inconvenience they’ve caused me. It’s pathetic. Everything that has happened to me, the 13 years that I spent trapped in Jamaica has slaughtered me. It has done my brain in, it really has.”

Vernon Vanriel
Vernon Vanriel
HuffPost UK

And, as the long-awaited scheme for recompense was announced, some victims and campaigners said the government had been “secretive” in its plans to launch the scheme, and that it had excluded some victims from attending a meeting to discuss it.

There are also concerns about its practicality and how accessible it will be for many of those affected by the scandal – such as pensioners and people without access to a computer.

Caesar said: “Now the compensation scheme has been launched people still don’t know how to fill in the forms and some even feel silly asking for help to word things.”

As of Monday, the Citizens Advice Bureau has launched a new service funded by the Home Office to help those who are applying for compensation.

This is widely perceived to be a response to Caesar’s concerns which has been echoed by others.

Advisers will help with claim forms, giving support over the phone and in person.

This came days after the home office apologised after making a data protection blunder while circulating information about the compensation scheme.

An “administrative error” meant that emails sent to some individuals and organisations who had registered an interest in being kept informed about the launch of the scheme included email addresses of other recipients.

PA Ready News UK

Williams sought the assistance of a solicitor friend to complete her compensatory application and sent it off last week – with bated breath.

“I had to get someone, a friend, with professional knowledge to help me because it was such a headache; I really felt like not doing it,” she said.

“The questions that they ask and the times they want you to go back and explain, with receipts... obviously we don’t have much.

“I don’t know how far that will get me but we’ll see. I don’t feel optimistic about getting compensated properly or, really, anything that the home office is doing right because they didn’t make me feel that way before.”

“I wrote six pages about how this ordeal has impacted me mentally and emotionally; where the form only gave me a small square to outline ‘impact on health’ because I went through a lot and suffered in silence,” she added.

Moving forward, Caesar thinks that there’s yet more work for the government to do.

“We’re still hearing of people being deported, there are people who have been deported; it hasn’t only affected my age group - it has affected children born after 1988 who were not given the right to say they were British.

“There are a lot of young children, lads, deported because their parents were not British [...]. The Windrush Scandal is still going on!”

“An amends can never be made because it got me to a stage where I was contemplating taking my own life. And that will never leave me or many others [who experienced psychological impact].”

“We’re still broke and some of us can’t go back to work,” she sighed.

HuffPost UK

In a new briefing published ahead of the one-year point since the UK Government first acknowledged the Windrush scandal, Amnesty International is warning that the scandal is “far from over” and calls for a series of fundamental reforms.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Director, said: “The Windrush generation were failed by decades of harmful Government policy and practice that effectively deprived people of their rightful citizenship and unleashed a range of harmful immigration powers against them.

“A year on, and this scandal is far from over. Its causes remain to be fully recognised, let alone addressed.

“Systemic injustice and racism in the UK’s nationality and immigration systems continues to destroy the lives of many people, including British citizens.

“Among them are the thousands of children, many born in the UK, who are denied their rights to British citizenship because of a profit-making fee they cannot afford.

“The Home Office’s persistent denial of its own dysfunctionality is an insult to the Windrush generation and others who continue to be harmed by this country’s immigration system.”

A public outcry ensued after revelations that long-term UK residents had been denied access to services.
A public outcry ensued after revelations that long-term UK residents had been denied access to services.
PA Ready News UK

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