A law firm fears the Government may “recoil from the cost” of operating a Windrush compensation scheme, and is preparing a group action lawsuit if the payment package “falls short”.
The threat from the legal firm Leigh Day comes as the Home Office prepares a redress scheme to compensate victims, in an attempt to resolve the “anxieties and problems” of those impacted by the Government’s hostile environment scheme – and to prevent cases going to court.
Commonwealth immigrants who arrived in Britain before 1971 acquired, without the need for documents, an automatic indefinite right to remain status, but many have been treated as illegal immigrants. As a consequence, Caribbean people have been denied healthcare, employment and accommodation and have been detained and deported.
Jamie Beagent, from the human rights team at Leigh Day, said his firm would being writing to the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, in the coming days to ask about the compensation scheme.
The firm has urged the Home Office to expedite the compensation process in the wake of Amber Rudd’s resignation, and has criticised both the hotline it set-up to resolve Windrush immigration issues, and the compensation scheme, as a “failed crisis-management ploy”.
“If their compensation scheme falls short, is overly crude, doesn’t take into account individual factors, then our clients will be able to fall back upon legal action to get the compensation they deserve,” Beagent said.
“Our worry is that the Government may recoil from the cost of operating an adequate scheme and might just try and put in place something much cruder.”
If that happens, Leigh Day’s legal action would argue that the Home Office’s policies were “discriminatory and unlawful” and breached the Human Rights Act as they were “inhuman and degrading”.
Beagent said they may break Article 3, freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and Article 8, the right to family life, of the Act.
Beagent said his firm is currently representing eight Windrush clients but is taking new inquiries on a daily basis. He anticipates the number will grow in the coming few weeks.
The lawyer anticipates that compensation claims would “vary widely”, depending on what claimants had suffered, but suggested “at the very least we’d be looking at a few hundred pounds for someone put through the stress of it”.
At the top end, compensation could stretch into the tens of thousands, he said.
“One of our clients was out of work for a year after the Home Office intervened and prevented the company he was working through from employing him.... he lost a year of proper earning, and that’s thousands.”
Beagent said he hoped a compensation scheme could hear cases within months – and said it should begin paying claimants by Christmas.