1.The Immigration Act 1971 confirmed that Commonwealth citizens present and settled in the UK at the time of the Act coming into force on 1 January 1973 were entitled to stay indefinitely in the UK. Those who arrived between the end of the Second World War and 1973 are commonly described as the ‘Windrush generation’—in reference to the ship MV Empire Windrush on which citizens from the Caribbean first arrived in 1948 to help rebuild a post-war nation. Despite being lawfully resident in the UK for decades it has become clear that, over the last ten years, members of this generation have been wrongly denied their rights and entitlements. People have lost their jobs and their homes, and have been unable to access healthcare, pensions or social security. Many have built up huge debts trying to convince the Home Office of their legal status, some have been left destitute as a result.
2.In April 2018 we launched an inquiry to understand what went wrong, why the issues affecting the Windrush generation were not picked up sooner and whether the Government’s response to the crisis has been adequate. We expect to publish an interim report for that inquiry in the very near future. However, there is an urgent and pressing issue which the Committee wishes to focus on in this short report, one which cannot wait for the conclusion of our broader inquiry, that is the financial hardship that many members of the Windrush generation are currently facing, through no fault of their own.
3.The Home Secretary has acknowledged, “there is no question [ … ] that a number of people from that generation have been mistreated and have had to suffer through anxiety in so many other ways”; they “have been seriously let down by the immigration system”. People the Home Secretary referred to include:
4.The Government has announced that people affected by the Windrush crisis would be compensated. On 23 April 2018 the then Home Secretary told the House:
The state has let these people down, with travel documents denied, exclusions from returning to the UK, benefits cut and even threats of removal—this, to a group of people who came to help build this country; people who should be thanked. This has happened for some time. I will put this right and where people have suffered loss, they will be compensated.
5.On 10 May 2018, the Government issued a call for evidence, in preparation for a compensation scheme for those members of the Windrush generation who have suffered because of difficulties proving their immigration status. The call for evidence closed on 8 June 2018, and the Home Office intend that it “will be followed by a full consultation on the detail of the scheme”. Clearly it will be many months before compensation is paid.
6.We are concerned that some people from the Windrush generation face destitution; are unable to settle legal bills; or are facing bailiffs due to debts run up when they were forced to give up work or had their social security payments stopped, through no fault of their own. They cannot wait many months for consultations to be concluded on the design and scope of the compensation scheme. We urge the Government to act immediately to set up a hardship fund for those in acute financial difficulty.
1 Oral evidence taken on , HC 990, Q217
2 HC Deb, , Col 349
3 The Guardian, , 8 June 2018
4 The Guardian, , 1 May 2018
5 The Guardian, 29 April 2018
6 The Guardian, , 11 May 2018
7 HC Deb, , Col 621 [Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP]
8 Home Office and UKVI, ‘Windrush Scheme and information’, published 13 April 2018, updated
Published: 13 June 2018