Over 180,000 people signed my Windrush petition in April 2018, which had the following key demands: to stop all deportations, to change the burden of proof and establish an amnesty for anyone who was a minor and provide compensation for loss and hurt.
The government was first in denial over the issues, then blamed the Windrush generation for not sorting out their paperwork. They refused to meet with Caribbean government leaders, until finally they were forced to admit that the Immigration Act 2014 and the policy of the hostile environment had caused the scandal. Amber Rudd had no choice but to resign as she lied to Parliament, the public and especially the Windrush victims. The government, to their credit, quickly introduced a Windrush taskforce to fast track applications for citizenship; suspended deportation flights; established a Lessons Learnt review and two consultations on a proposed compensation scheme.
But after 12 months, what is our assessment of progress? Just over 4,000 people have received their rightful citizenship, but over 500 cases have been refused, the majority of whom have 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, responsible for the historic hostile environment policy and procedures. In addition, the Home Office have not fully engaged or provided additional resources to a range of stakeholders from immigration, migration, race equality, grassroots and faith groups around supporting the Windrush generation and their children to regularise their status. 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.
Deportation flights were suspended for 10 months, and then in February 2019 they were controversially resumed even though many people deported had spent all of their adult life in the UK with strong family ties. To make matters worse, not only were they deported to Jamaica without any plans for support or rehabilitation, the charity supporting deportees in Kingston, the National Organisation for Deported Migrants, had all their funding cut by the Home Office.
With regards to the Lessons Learnt Review I hope this will fully explore the issue of structural racism in the Home Office, otherwise we will need to have a public inquiry. With the compensation scheme, I am campaigning alongside many others to prevent the government introducing an overall cap on all claims. However, what is clear with the scheme that was launched two weeks ago, is this is being done through the back door by having stringent tariffs on various aspects of claims, and placing an onerous burden on survivors to find all manner of documentary evidence to claim compensation, which undermines the concept of restorative justice.
Sadly, no amount of apologies from Theresa May, Amber Rudd or Sajid Javid can replace direct and effective government action to resolve one of the biggest human rights abuses this century. We still need to campaign for restorative justice – and the truth for the Windrush generation.