A group of MPs has referred the Home Office to the equalities watchdog over the Windrush scandal, urging an investigation into whether British citizens were unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of their race.
David Lammy said he and 86 other MPs were calling on the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to investigate the department and whether its so-called hostile environment policies led to discriminatory treatment against ethnic minorities.
The Home Office said it was “committed to righting the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation”, the thousands of people who came to the UK from the Caribbean between the late 1940s and early 1970s.
A public outcry erupted after it emerged that long-term UK residents were denied access to services, held in detention or removed despite living legally in the country for decades.
Lammy, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community, said: “The abuse of Windrush British citizens by the Home Office raises serious questions over whether they were discriminated against on the basis of their race, in breach of equalities legislation.
“Myself and 86 other MPs are calling on the EHRC to investigate.”
According to the Guardian, a letter from the group to the EHRC says the introduction and operation of the hostile environment shows “beyond all doubt” that the Government “does not take its stated commitment to race equality seriously”.
Last month, Home Secretary Sajid Javid launched a £200 million compensation scheme to “right the wrongs” suffered by people who faced difficulties demonstrating their immigration status.
Up to 15,000 eligible claims are expected to be lodged.
Ministers faced a furious backlash over the treatment of the Windrush generation – named after a ship that brought people 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.
Last year, the Government formally apologised in relation to 18 cases where the Home Office was considered most likely to have acted wrongfully.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Home Secretary and the Immigration Minister are committed to righting the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation and the recently launched compensation scheme is a crucial step in delivering on that commitment.
“The Windrush generation have given so much to this country and we will ensure nothing like this ever happens again, that is why the Home Secretary commissioned a lessons-learned review with independent oversight by Wendy Williams.”