06/03/2019 00:01 GMT

Home Office 'Complacent' Over Failings Of Windrush Scandal, Say MPs

Department accused of shirking its responsibility to help victims.

The Home Office has been accused of shirking its responsibility to put right the wrongs suffered by victims of the Windrush scandal.

A scathing Commons report claimed the department has been complacent in its response and failed to “take ownership” for resolving issues caused by its own mistakes.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also criticised the decision to exclude up to 160,000 non-Caribbean Commonwealth cases from a review carried out to identify how many people may have been affected.

PAC chairwoman Meg Hillier said: “The human consequences of this appalling scandal are tragic and well-documented.

“But there is a long way to go before the Home Office can credibly claim to have put things right.

“It is deeply regrettable that a scandal of this magnitude, on the back of repeated and unheeded warnings, does not appear to have fully shaken the Home Office out of its complacency about its systemic and cultural problems.”

Ministers faced a furious backlash over the treatment of the Windrush Generation - named after a ship that brought migrants to Britain from the Caribbean in 1948.

Commonwealth citizens who arrived before 1973 were automatically granted indefinite leave to remain but many were not issued with any documents confirming their status.

A public outcry erupted after it emerged that long-term UK residents had been denied access to services, held in detention or removed despite living in the country for decades.

The PAC said the scandal exposed a lack of concern about the “real-world impact” of immigration policies, compounded by a “systemic failure” to keep accurate records, meaning British citizens or people with leave to remain in the UK did not have the paperwork to prove it.

PA Wire/PA Images
The Empire Windrush ship.

The report said: “The Home Office was aware of this through case inquiries from citizens and their MPs.

“Yet, the department failed in its duty to protect the rights of people to live, work and access services and benefits in the UK when designing and implementing its immigration policies.”

Instead of “taking ownership” for resolving individual cases, the Home Office is interpreting its role narrowly and using other departments’ remits as a “poor excuse for inaction”, the PAC claimed.

It said: “For example, it has done little to secure urgent housing for members of the Windrush Generation, many of whom are homeless or having to rely on family members, and is content to simply leave this to local authorities which are under significant pressure.”

In response to the furore, the government set up a dedicated taskforce to help those affected obtain paperwork confirming their right to be in the country.

Thousands of people have also been granted British citizenship free of charge.

But the committee said: “While this belated flurry of activity may help some of those who have identified themselves, it does nothing to tackle the systemic issues that led to the problems in the first place.”

The MPs also questioned whether the full scale of the scandal has been established.

A review of 11,800 cases of Caribbean Commonwealth individuals identified 164 who were removed or detained and might have been resident in the UK before 1973.

The Home Office has formally apologised over 18 cases in which it considers it is most likely to have acted wrongfully.

But the PAC argued that the department has not done enough to identify people who might have been affected.

Its report said: “The Windrush scandal concerns the entire Commonwealth, not only Caribbean nationals, and, while the department has reviewed 11,800 Caribbean cases, around 160,000 non-Caribbean Commonwealth cases remain unreviewed. We believe these people cannot be simply ignored.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Home Secretary and Immigration Minister have been resolute in their determination to right the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation and have commissioned a lessons learned review with independent oversight and scrutiny to establish what went wrong and prevent it happening again.

“The taskforce has helped thousands of people of different nationalities prove their status in the UK. Through the Windrush scheme 3,400 people have obtained British citizenship.

“In addition, the taskforce has a dedicated vulnerable persons team which has provided support to over 600 people including referrals to the Department for Work and Pensions for benefit claims and advice and support on housing.”