138.In this report, we have examined why so many people from the Windrush generation were caught up in the hostile immigration environment, treated as illegal immigrants and detained or made destitute, through no fault of their own. In two reports on our immigration system earlier this year (Immigration policy: basis for building consensus, Home Office delivery of Brexit: immigration), we expressed concerns about the hostile environment being, in some instances, too open to interpretation and inadvertent error. We found that immigration legislation was too complex, hindering those who must engage with the system and also increasing the challenge faced by officials tasked with making life-changing decisions. We also found that the Home Office makes too many errors, and too many existing processes are under strain and under-resourced. The Windrush generation suffered because of all of these problems, compounded by the removal of legal aid and a right of appeal.
139.We welcome the Government’s eventual response, in the shape of the taskforce and fee waivers. We note that more than 2,000 people from the Windrush generation have been issued with the documentation they require. Having said that, several weeks after the Government started to take action, individuals are still homeless, deprived of their right to work, social security and healthcare; it will take time for the documents to be processed and for these rights to be restored. The compensation scheme must be set up quickly and a hardship fund made available until that time.
140.The process of review, lesson learning and accountability remains unsatisfactory. There was a clear lack of oversight of the system as a whole, meaning that the Government did not recognise systemic problems as they arose. The previous Home Secretary told us “I look back with hindsight and I’m surprised I did not see the shape of it sooner”. It is vital that the “shape” of other problems with immigration policy is seen in future and that the promised change in culture in the Home Office is implemented. In the words of Paulette Wilson, wrongly made homeless, detained and threatened with removal from the country: “You cannot keep treating people like this.”
173 The Guardian, , 21 May 2018
174 Oral evidence taken before the Joint Committee on Human Rights on , HC (2017–19) 1034, Q 3
Published: 3 July 2018