Comments by Sanwar Ali:
It is not just UK visas and Immigration at the Home Office we should be concerned about. There has also been huge concerns about the toxic culture at organisations closely involved with and sponsored by the Home Office. The George Floyd related demonstrations around the World has raised public awareness about racism in society, and Governments now want to be seen to be doing something about discrimination.
The George Floyd case has become incredibly important for many people and was mentioned when the Equality and Human Rights Commission recently announced an investigation into Windrush and the Home Office. Priti Patel, the Government and officials should make sure that the recommendations in the Windrush review report also apply to organisations working with the UK visa department at the Home Office, who have become part of the “hostile environment” system and have also been involved in widespread discrimination:
- Serious harm has been done to people who are British and an unqualified apology should be provided. Instead of apologies, the Home Office has been accused of being “reflexively defensive”. The same can be said about the perpetrators of injustices in organisations linked to the Home Office. Not just in the Home Office. Instead of apologies, denials and cover ups are the standard response.
- Race clearly played a part. There are extremely serious allegations of institutional racism against an organisation sponsored by the Home Office. In the US it has even been suggested that the problems in some organisations are so severe that defunding and closure should be an option.
- A race advisory board needs to be established. Organisations cannot be trusted to deal with issues of discrimination themselves. For example, probably ever single regulator in the UK that has ever been investigated or has appeared in front of an employment tribunal has been found to have been involved in some form of discriminatory practices. Instead of admitting misconduct and paying damages, they will spend large sums of money in legal fees to defend themselves and so cause further suffering to victims of discrimination.
- A review needs to be undertaken of the hostile/compliant environment policy and measures. Typical practice at the Home Ofice and in other organisations is to deny that something is wrong and cover things up. Any review must be done in an open way.
- There is also a problem of “defensiveness, lack of awareness and an unwillingness to listen and learn from mistakes”, by the Home Office and also it has to be said those linked to the Home Office. Shocking injustices occur when everyone in an organisation work together to cover up instances of discrimination, with complete disregard as to what it does to the victim. Officials who might consider telling the truth are terrified of doing so in case it upsets colleagues in the same organisation.
- A “target-dominated work environment within the immigration system and some low-quality decision making”. Too much of the time there is more concern about achieving targets than concerns about behaving in a fair and ethical way. These targets adversely affect minority groups more who are seen as being “easy targets” and less able to fight back. Minority Groups are paying taxes in effect so that Governmental organisations in some cases are able to pay for legal representation to prevent access to justice for victims of discrimination. In addition, in Court cases the Government Legal Department tries to win cases in many situations with a total disregard for the truth. Shocking injustices are even more likely to occur when the Government Legal Department are up against victims of discrimination who cannot afford proper legal representation.
All 30 recommendations outlined in the independent “Lessons Learned” report into the Windrush scandal will be acted on UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has said. Patel’s announcement commits the government to carrying out a meticulous review of its controversial hostile environment immigration policy, analysing its risks and effectiveness.
The Home Secretary promised ‘significant cultural and systemic reform’ within the Home Office and that the agency’s policies are ‘rooted in humanity.’
The decision to act on all 30 recommendations in the Lessons Learned report came just two days after its author, Wendy Williams, claimed that there was danger of the Windrush scandal being repeated if ministers did not implement the suggested measures.
Published in March, Wendy Williams’ report is 276 pages long and provides a forensically detailed analysis into how the scandal occurred. The report was damning in its verdict of Home Office practices, accusing the agency of “ignorance and institutional thoughtlessness” on the subject of race.
Culture of disbelief and carelessness at UK visa at the Home Office
The scandal, which misclassified thousands of legal residents in the UK as illegal, was characterised by a ‘culture of disbelief and carelessness’, according to the report. The Home Office was also slammed for a complete lack of empathy toward individuals.
By accepting the measures outlined in the report, the Home Secretary has said that officials will be commissioned to carry out a full inquiry and evaluation of the agency’s hostile and compliance environment UK immigration policy and measures, both individually and cumulatively, in line with recommendation number 7 in Wendy Williams’ report.
Williams said that the Home Office’s review should “assess whether the measures are proportionate in meeting their stated aim, given the risks inherent in the policy”, adding that it must be carried out scrupulously in partnership with third-party specialists and published in a timely way.
Patel recognises need for reform at Home Office
According to a report published by The Guardian, Patel’s acceptance of the 30 recommendations means that she recognises that ‘systemic and cultural change is necessary’ within the Home Office.
Under the 30 recommendations, the Home Office will be required to issue a new mission statement, one that’s based on ‘fairness, humanity, openness, diversity and inclusion.’ Also, the recommendations push for a forced change in culture to acknowledge that migration and wider Home Office policy ‘is about people.’
Migrants’ commissioner to be appointed
Based on Williams’ recommendations, the Home Secretary has also agreed to put a migrants’ commissioner in place who will be responsible for giving migrants a voice. Patel acknowledged that Home Office personnel need to learn about the history of the UK and its relationship with the rest of the world.
It’s understood that this will include the UK’s colonial history, historical inward and outward migration and the history of black Britons.
In a statement to the House of Commons, Patel said: “I was clear when Wendy Williams published her Lessons Learned review that I would listen, and I would act. I have heard what she has said, and I will be accepting the recommendations she has made in full.
“I am committed to ensuring that the Home Office delivers for each part of the community it serves and I will come back to update the house on how we will be implementing the recommendations before the summer recess.”
The Home Secretary, who was born in London to a Ugandan-Indian family, stressed that she is committed to ‘righting the wrongs and injustices that the Windrush generation were subjected to.’
“I will do all I can to make sure that more people are helped, and more people are compensated in full. If additional resources are needed, they will be provided,” Patel said.
Windrush compensation scheme criticised
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Shadow Home Secretary took a swipe at the government for its slow progress in compensating Windrush victims. According to Thomas-Symonds, the government’s Windrush compensation scheme compensated just 60 people in its first year.
Patel said: “Yes payments and the way in which they’ve been made have been far too slow. I’m not apologising for that at all. I have outlined in my statement that it is right that we treat each individual with the respect and dignity they deserve. These are complicated cases.”
The Home Secretary went on to say that more than £1 million in compensation has now been offered to victims of the Windrush scandal.
Patel notified MPs that work was ongoing to ensure that those affected by the scandal would receive the documentation and compensation they needed.
The Home Secretary said: “So far, over 12,000 people have been granted documentation by the Windrush taskforce, including over 5,900 grants of citizenship, and the compensation scheme continues to make payments to compensate the losses and the impairs individuals suffered as a result of not being able to demonstrate their lawful status.”
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