Why the Windrush Lessons Learned review doesn’t go far enough

Campaigner Zita Holbourne says that it is deeply disappointing that the report fails to acknowledge the role that institutional racism played in the Windrush Scandal

SENSE OF INJUSTICE: Protest erupted across the country after the Windrush Scandal came to light but the anger remains

THE WINDRUSH Lessons Learned report was finally published yesterday, after a severe delay and amidst criticism that  the report has been watered down to remove references to institutional racism.

When the report was leaked last month just before a planned mass deportation flight to Jamaica   the government refused to adhere to one of the recommendations said to be in the report to protect those who came to the UK as children from being subjected to forced deportations.

The fact that the report has been published is welcomed but it is deeply disappointing that it fails to acknowledge that institutional racism played a part in the horrific scandal.

CRITICISM: Zita Holbourne of BARAC UK

Institutional racism played a role in the injustice thrust upon the Windrush Generation, their families and our wider community.

It  has damaged and destroyed lives and continues to do so with only 3% of those entitled to compensation under the Windrush Compensation Scheme receiving anything to date, at the same time we hear of cases every day of Windrush Generation victims who are destitute, living on the streets.

Whilst the report refers to race and racism, instead of stating that institutional racism existed and exists, it says that institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness existed – I think that this is an insult to both the Windrush Generation  and communities but also to the black and minority ethnic staff working at the Home Office which the report points out are also facing multiple failures by the department.

One of the recommendations is an apology, there have been numerous empty apologies – this is not enough and nobody believes such apologies are genuine.   What people need is true justice and action including an interim substantial payment from the compensation scheme.

The recommendations include the following:

 An education on the history of black people in the UK and history of colonialism for Home Office staff. 

A Full review of hostile environment policies

Better engagement with communities

Comprehensive equality training for all staff with evidence in the report that there is a woefully low turn out in the department of take up of what are supposed to be compulsory training programmes for all civil servants  on both diversity and inclusion but also unconscious bias. 

REPORT AUTHOR: Wendy Williams

Unconscious bias training does not address race equality but also the report evidences that whilst both courses have an incredibly low take up, unconscious bias training is slightly higher. 

It suggests there should be a migrant commissioner.

 That Race equality impact assessments should be conducted 

 That there should be major cultural change and structures for underrepresented groups working for the Home Office

Training for senior civil servants 

A Strategic race advisory board

That the Home Office should address under representation of black and minority ethnic people at senior level

A review of diversity and inclusion training  

Review and monitor race Employment Tribunal cases.

As the National Vice President of the Public and Commercial Services Union I am conscious that BAME staff at the Home Office are concentrated in the lower grades, face racist harassment and bullying at work and discrimination in the staff appraisal / reporting system.

So I agree that the things within the report focused on the lack of race equality and awareness within the organisation are needed but the fact is that the McPherson report and recommendations following the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry highlighted highlighted these failures and over 20 years down the line, Wendy Williams report is suggesting that nothing has changed which is disgraceful.

PROTESTS: News of the scandal prompted nationwide demonstrations

But the report falls short for me in making enough recommendations focused on those of the Windrush Generation, their multi generation families and the wider communities still impacted everyday by the government’s hostile environment.

Whilst the scope of the report was to ‘learn lessons’ for the future , there is still the question of the now and those who have not received any justice and ability to  move forward with their lives, the threat to their children and grandchildren of further injustice in the form of detention, Home Office reporting and deportations.

One of the recommendations is an apology, there have been numerous empty apologies – this is not enough and nobody believes such apologies are genuine.

Zita Holbourne

I also have no faith that the institutional racism that exists will be addressed if it is not even acknowledged in this report and that focus cannot just be on the Home Office as a department but  needs to be on the government itself.

Teaching the history of colonialism to white staff of the Home Office  (as most of the BAME staff will already know this history, first hand or through the experience of their families and because we are all still living with the legacy of it) might bring about some awareness but it will not necessarily change behaviours, processes, policies and actions. 

To prevent an ongoing hostile environment there needs to be a change in policies and laws, not least the racist immigration act. 

On release of the report earlier today, black UK organisations, including my own BARAC UK, who are part of the BAME Lawyers for Justice umbrella group issued our response to the report and we called for the following to take place going forward:

There needs to be at the earliest opportunity, a full independent public inquiry. 

· The Government without any more prevarication, waffle and/ or lengthy bureaucratic process, provide a full British passport for all those affected. 

· In recognition of the deep pain and suffering caused, an immediate interim compensation payment of £10,000 to all victims and the removal of any compensation limits and past precedents. 

· The Government should release all those who remain in immigration detention centres as a consequence of the Hostile Environment policy and finally end the routine deportation of those deemed foreign-born offenders. “ 

We invite readers to sign and share widely our petition calling for an Independent Public Inquiry into the Windrush Scandal.

Click here to sign it.

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