Windrush generation detention Contents


Purpose of this report

1.The human right not to be detained arbitrarily is of crucial importance. Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights only permits an interference with the right to liberty in specific circumstances. An individual should not be deprived of their liberty without good reason and adequate safeguards. The experience of detention is traumatising and debilitating as shown by the evidence we heard from Mr Anthony Bryan and Ms Paulette Wilson, two members of the Windrush generation who were detained wrongfully. Indeed, the Home Office have acknowledged that these were wrongful detentions.6 We found that these two people had a legal right to be in the country and yet were deprived of their liberty and detained. And it might be that there are many more, although the exact number is still unknown. We have used the cases of Mr Bryan and Ms Wilson to seek to understand why they were wrongfully detained and why their human rights were violated. While the detaining authority, the Home Office, has acknowledged the seriousness of these cases, it has not provided a satisfactory account of why this has happened or how systems have been reviewed and altered to ensure such incidents never happen again. In the absence of any such account no-one can be satisfied that it is not still happening.

2.In relation to the wrongful detentions of Mr Bryan and Ms Wilson, the Home Office told us that they were a result of “a series of mistakes over a period of time”.7 We did not find that explanation credible or sufficient. We looked at two separate cases in which information was repeatedly assessed and a series of decisions were taken by different people within the Home Office over a long period of time. It is not plausible that these decisions were all mistakes rather the impression given is of a systemic failure. Moreover, notwithstanding the new Home Secretary’s comments referred to above, the Home Office has not responded like an organisation which has come across an error. When an organisation comes across a serious mistake, they take steps to address it. Yet the Home Office has presented no information so far to suggest that appropriate steps have been taken to tackle the causes of these “mistakes.”

3.In this report we set out what our examination of the Home Office case files of Mr Bryan and Ms Wilson has shown about how and why they were deprived of the fundamental right not to be detained without lawful justification and adequate safeguards. Our view is that the Home Office did not ensure, as it should have done at the outset of these matters, whether it had a right to detain. It is evident that the Home Office did not appropriately consider the information on file, review progress of these cases nor listen to relatives, MPs or others making consistent and clear representations on behalf of these individuals.

4.It is imperative to examine whether the Home Office failings affected all other detainees in Mr Bryan and Ms Wilson’s situation, which we suspect is the case. The Home Office is currently aware of 63 Windrush deportation cases; many of these individuals will have been detained before deportation.8 We have accordingly asked to see the Home Office case files of those individuals detained prior to being deported, and we will also be asking for the case files of other individuals from the Windrush cohort that were detained, to examine why these wrongful detentions took place. This must happen if the Home Office is to avoid such human rights abuses in the future.

5.This report sets out provisional conclusions and recommendations for the Home Office and Secretary of State for the Home Department, Mr Sajid Javid MP. These relate specifically to how they came to be wrongfully detained and what should be done to prevent future abuses of detention powers.

Our inquiry

6.We were prompted to look into cases of detention from the “Windrush generation” because we wanted to understand how individuals came to be wrongfully detained and whether the cases implied that current processes and safeguards to prevent against wrongful detention are insufficient.

7.On 16 May 2018, we took evidence from Mr Bryan and Ms Wilson, two children of the Windrush generation, who were detained by the Home Office, despite the fact that they had a legal right to be in the UK, under the Immigration Act 1971. The evidence session suggested that in these two cases, legal and policy safeguards to prevent wrongful detention had not worked. In evidence, our two witnesses indicated that they would like to see their Home Office case files in order to see how the Home Office had made decisions about their status and eventually detained them. These files were then shared with us by the individuals.

8.Our analysis of the case files confirmed that Home Office officials ignored the evidence and pieces of information that were already on the case files as shown by the decisions they made; ignored representation from family members, lawyers and MPs, banned a family member from attending a reporting centre because, she displayed frustration at officials, while seeking to support her mother in navigating the immigration system; failed to apply common sense and appropriate oversight when reviewing applications and showed little, if any compassion to obviously vulnerable individuals. Although not the subject of this Report, it is worth mentioning that crucially the Home Office “lost sight” of the status that was conferred upon Commonwealth citizens then resident in the UK by the 1971 Immigration Act. Moreover, the Home Office required unduly onerous and unnecessary amounts of evidence from members of the Windrush generation members. Cumulatively this ultimately led to officials making perverse and arbitrary decisions leading to their detention.

9.On 6 June, our session with the Home Secretary, Mr Sajid Javid MP, and the Director General of the Border Immigration and Citizenship System at the Home Office, Glyn Williams, sought to understand how and why decision-making at the Home Office was so poor and whether this implied more widespread problems with the Home Office approach to immigration detention. Our conclusions on these questions are discussed further in Chapters four and five.

6 Q29 [Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP]

7 Q24 [Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP]

8 Oral evidence taken before the Home Affairs Select Committee evidence session on 15 May 2018, HC (2017–19) 990, Q237 [Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP]

Published: 29 June 2018