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‘Ignorance, racism’: Britain slammed for failing Windrush immigrants

In recent years, some of them, now elderly, were refused medical care or threatened with deportation because they could not produce paperwork proving their right to reside in the UK. Some were deported.

Jamaican immigrants arrive for their first night in London after disembarking from the Empire Windrush.

Jamaican immigrants arrive for their first night in London after disembarking from the Empire Windrush. Credit:File

Lead report author Wendy Williams, a lawyer and former inspector of police, said “members of the Windrush generation and their children have been poorly served by this country.

“They had every right to be here and should never have been caught in the immigration net,” she said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel apologised to those caught up in the scandal, who endured “insensitive treatment by the very country they called home.”

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“There is nothing that I can say today which will undo the pain, the suffering and the misery inflicted upon the Windrush generation,” she told MPs in the House of Commons.

“What I can do is say that on behalf of this and successive governments, I am truly sorry for the actions that spanned decades and I’m sorry that people’s trust has been betrayed.”

Legal Windrush migrants had been denied housing, jobs or medical treatment because of requirements that landlords, employers and doctors in the UK check people’s immigration status. Others were told by the government that they were in Britain illegally and had to leave.

The scandal drew in then prime minister Theresa May, who was home secretary when the “hostile environment” policy was introduced. May apologised Thursday and said the government had to take heed of the report’s findings.

“This generation came here, they were British, they were here legally, they worked to build our country and they should not have been treated in this way,” she said.

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Among 30 recommendations, Williams argued for a review of the hostile environment policy and said the Home Office should establish a race advisory board.

A compensation scheme has been set up for with an estimated budget of at least £200 million ($397 million). But campaigners have criticised the “paltry” number of people who have so far received payments and called the process “slow and onerous”.

David Lammy, an MP from the main opposition Labour Party whose parents came to Britain from Guyana, said in light of the coronavirus pandemic it was “hard to imagine” a worse time for this report to be published.

“For the sake of all those black British citizens who were deported, detained, made homeless, jobless, denied healthcare, housing and welfare by their own government, we cannot allow this news to be buried,” he said in a tweet.

AP

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