01/04/2021 10:54 BST

Home Office Forced To Sign Legal Agreement After ‘Ignoring’ Equality Law During Windrush Scandal

Action by equalities watchdog comes a day after a government-backed report claimed institutional racism does not exist in the UK.

The Home Office has been forced to sign a legal agreement with the equalities watchdog after it “effectively ignored” the law with its so-called “hostile environment” immigration measures.

The agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) comes after the department was found to have neglected to consider the impact the policies would have on Black members of the Windrush generation.

The watchdog said the Home Office’s “unjust” treatment of the Windrush generation, many of whom were wrongly deported from the UK, “must never be repeated”.

It comes after a government-backed report was described as “insulting” for claiming that institutional racism does not exist in the UK.

In a statement, the EHRC said the Home Office “effectively ignored” the public sector equality duty during the Windrush scandal.

It has now been forced to legally commit to a two-year action plan of improvements.

EHRC chair Kishwer Falkner said: “The experiences of the Windrush generation must never be repeated, and must never be forgotten. They serve as a stark reminder of the importance of adhering to equality laws, so that no one has to suffer such unjust treatment. 

“When used properly, the public sector equality duty is vital in ensuring all public services work effectively for all of their users, regardless of background. 

“By effectively ignoring it when implementing the hostile environment measure, the Home Office’s actions had a profound effect on many people’s lives.

“If we are to be a fair and equal society, then equality and human rights has to be at the core of everything we do.”

PA Wire/PA Images
Jamaican immigrants welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office after the ex-troopship HMT 'Empire Windrush' landed them at Tilbury in 1948

The Home Office will need to demonstrate that it “properly considers evidence” from groups affected by its policies, has a “clear understanding” of equality data and uses it to inform policy, and takes “meaningful action” to improve officials’ knowledge and expertise on how to comply with the equality duty.

It will also establish a community stakeholder and engagement hub and take steps to improve the advice given to ministers about equality.

If the Home Office fails to comply with the agreement, it could face further action, including a court order requiring it to take action.

“Other government departments can learn from this lesson, and make sure they are taking all of the appropriate steps to meet their legal obligations and deliver public policy and services that work for everyone.”

Home secretary Priti Patel and Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft said in a joint statement: “The Windrush generation were repeatedly failed by successive governments and we have been resolute in our determination to right the wrongs that they suffered.  

“We are pleased to have agreed an ambitious action plan with the EHRC which builds on the work we are doing in response to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review.

“We will continue to work closely with the EHRC on delivering the action plan to ensure mistakes like this never happen again.”