The Windrush scandal demonstrates a combination of a lack of concern about the real-world impact of the Home Office’s (the Department) immigration policies compounded by a systemic failure to keep accurate records, meaning many people who are British Citizens or have leave to remain in the UK do not have the paperwork to prove it. The Home Office was aware of this through case enquiries from citizens and their MPs. Yet, the department failed in its duty to protect the rights of people to live, work and access services and benefits in the UK when designing and implementing its immigration policies. This failure was compounded by the Department’s lack of action when there were clear warnings that members of the Windrush generation, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable, were being denied their rights. The Department has a duty of care to identify and support everyone affected by the Windrush scandal, but in practice its actions do not live up to its own promise to do everything it can to put things right. It has set up a task force, but while this belated flurry of activity may help some of those who have identified themselves, it does nothing to tackle the systemic issues that led to the problems in the first place. Rather than taking full responsibility to resolve the problems it has caused, it is being complacent, neglecting to identify those affected and denying people support to rebuild their lives. We do not believe that the Department is doing enough to address the appalling defects in its systems, processes and data quality, which contributed to the scandal. Given the human cost of wrong decisions in the immigration system, the Department must invest significant effort so that its staff make the right decisions and correctly record people’s immigration history and status. This has major implications for the future as the UK prepares to leave the EU: the Home Office must ensure that EU citizens are easily able to regularise their status and stay in the UK as the Government has promised, rather than being caught up in a similar scandal.
Published: 6 March 2019