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Comments by Sanwar Ali:
There are ongoing and serious problems with discrimination at the Home Office and organisations associated with them. There also seems to be a reluctance to take the Wendy Williams Windrush report seriously and take action based on the report. This needs to change as a matter of urgency.
Wendy Williams, the author of the ‘Lessons Learned’ report into the Windrush scandal has blasted the Home Office for its failure to make sufficient progress in reviewing its hostile UK immigration policy. Williams has urged the government agency to demonstrate its commitment to reform and not ‘merely pay it lip service.’
Williams, whose review was published earlier this year, said that the Home Office ‘risks losing a once-in-a-generation opportunity for change,’ according to a report published by The Guardian.
The Lessons Learned author was also surprised to discover that just 168 people affected by the Windrush scandal have received compensation following a public apology from the government for mistakenly identifying thousands of legal British residents as illegal immigrants, made two and half years ago.
30 recommendations in Windrush report
Within her report, Williams made 30 recommendations that would help the Home Office to improve its approach to immigration, which Home Secretary, Priti Patel, promised to implement. However, Williams has expressed concern over there being no immediate plans to appoint a commissioner to represent the voice of unheard migrants.
It’s understood that Williams also has concerns about the lack of progress made to review the compliant UK immigration environment policies. The hostile environment policy was introduced by former Prime Minister Theresa May - who was Home Secretary at the time – in an effort to reduce Britain’s net migration numbers.
Many of the difficulties faced by legal British residents caught up in the Windrush scandal have been attributed to the hostile environment policy.
Ms Williams said: “As far as the review of the compliant environment policy is concerned, there is not the detail, or the speed of activity that I would have expected. The timescales and the activities are not ambitious enough and I would expect to see more progress made.”
She told the Home Affairs Select Committee: “The department has a choice. It can really embrace my recommendations or it can pay lip service to my recommendations, and not institute that fundamental cultural change. This is a seminal moment for the department.”
Home Office needs urgent reform
Williams reinforced her belief that the Home Office is in desperate need of reform, while adding that senior officials within the department have failed to understand the impact that some of its complicated UK immigration policies have on people.
According to Williams: “A very senior member of the department said that they did not believe, and indeed the department accepted this, that there was anyone in the department who understood the full impact of its own policies and legislation.”
Williams has urged the Home Office to improve diversity at the upper echelons of the department to prevent a repeat of the Windrush scandal.
She said: “Despite an overall ‘positive picture’ with black and minority ethnic employees making up 26% of the Home Office workforce, unfortunately, when you look at the detail, those staff are concentrated in the two most junior grades.”
“When one goes up the department in terms of seniority, the numbers dwindle away to single figures, whether in terms of numbers or percentages,” Williams added.
The Lessons Learned author argued that a government department that does not understand the history of migration to Britain, the UK’s colonial history and the impact of its own legislation, is something that seriously needs to be tackled and that can only happen from within.
Shocking experiences of immigration enforcement
When speaking to victims of the Windrush scandal while doing research for her review, Williams shared how deeply the experiences of people affected her personally and was shocked by some of the stories she heard.
She explained that many people were outraged by what had happened to them. She said: “Most people were bewildered and incredulous at what had happened to them. I have to be honest: so was I.”
A letter sent to The Guardian by a group of victims affected by the Windrush scandal, said: “The Home Office’s comprehensive improvement plan is long on regrets but short on specifics of how and when appropriate changes will be made.”
The letter, signed by the group which incudes Michael Braithwaite, who lost his job as a special needs teaching assistant after being wrongly accused of being a UK immigration offender despite living in the UK for 56 years, added: “The Home Secretary’s priorities are very clearly not focused on ‘righting the wrongs’ of Windrush, but on doggedly pursuing the same approach of unbridled hostility that created them.”
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