Windrush scandal review: ‘institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards issue of race’ at Home Office

PROTEST: Anger over the Windrush Scandal led to protests in Lambeth and all over the country

THE INDEPENDENT review into the Windrush scandal has not made a definitive finding of institutional racism within the Home Office.

Wendy Williams’ report into the causes of the crisis, which saw thousands of British citizens born in the Caribbean classed as illegal immigrants, finds that it was “foreseeable and avoidable”.

Her report states that those affected had “no reason to doubt their status or that they belonged to the UK”.

It also states there was “an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race” but falls short of unequivocally branding the Home Office institutionally racist.

Williams, an inspector of constabulary, wrote in her report: “While I am unable to make a definitive finding of institutional racism within the department, I have serious concerns that these failings demonstrate an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation within the department, which are consistent with some elements of the definition of institutional racism.”

The independent adviser for the Windrush Lessons Learned Review said: “The Windrush Generation has been poorly served by this country, a country to which they contributed so much and in which they had every right to make their lives. The many stories of injustice and hardship are heartbreaking, with jobs lost, lives uprooted and untold damage done to so many individuals and families.

Williams report makes 30 recommendations for change and improvement and she has urged ministers to implement them in their entirety.

Among the recommendations are for the Home Office to acknowledge its failings, open itself up to greater external scrutiny and change its culture to recognise that migration and the Home Office should put people are the heart of policy making.

These recommendations fall into four main categories: the Home Office’s interaction with the communities it serves and with external stakeholders; its interaction with its people; its role in wider interaction with ministers and government; and the Home Office’s approach to race, diversity and inclusion.

Williams’ recommendations include a call for ministers to admit that serious harm was inflicted on people who are British and for the home secretary to set a clear purpose, mission and values statement that has “fairness, humanity, openness, diversity and inclusion” at its heart.

Supporters of the Windrush generation have raised concerns about the timing of the publication of the report, feeling it and its recommendations will be overshadowed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Diane Abbott said: “We shouldn’t allow the fact that the review has been published at at time of national crisis to mean that the review and its recommendations are buried the Windrush generation deserve better than that.”

The home secretary, Priti Patel, who published the report today, apologised for the scandal and said she had been “deeply moved” by reading the report.

“Today’s publication is part of an ongoing mission to put this right and ensure events like this can never happen again as there were far too many victims of Windrush,” Patel said.

Theresa May, who introduced the hostile environment policy, which largely contributed to the scandal, also apologised for the treatment of the Windrush generation.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper called the report “deeply disturbing”.

She said the conclusions on racism were “particularly damning”.

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