Immigration lawyers are among the groups being asked by the Home Office to submit evidence about what caused the Windrush scandal and what would prevent a repeat. In a “lessons learned” call for evidence issued on 20 August, the department says that “immigration advisors and lawyers who may represent those going through the UK immigration system” can help “prevent something like this happening again”. Not for the first time, then, lawyers are being asked to clean up a mess created at Marsham Street.
The six consultation questions are:
- What, in your view, were the main legislative, policy and operational decisions which led to members of the Windrush generation becoming entangled in measures designed for illegal immigrants? [See here]
- What other factors played a part? [See here]
- Why were these issues not identified sooner?
- What lessons can the Home Office learn to make sure it does things differently in future?
- Are corrective measures now in place? If so, please give an assessment of their initial impact.
- What (if any) further recommendations do you have for the future?
Apology to 18 people removed and/or detained
The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has also revealed that according to “provisional” Home Office analysis, 164 Commonwealth citizens who lived in the UK before 1 January 1973 were detained and/or removed from the UK. Not all were Windrush cases, as some had let their indefinite leave to remain lapse and others were eventually allowed into the country. But:
there are 18 people for whom there is an indication in the record that they were in the UK before 1973 and who stayed here permanently but were unable to demonstrate their continuous residence here which led to them being removed or detained in an immigration removal centre or a reporting centre.
Those 18 people are to receive a formal apology. Not everyone is impressed:
Sajid Javid’s apology to the 18 people who are either deported OR detained is empty. Changing the boundaries of who they consider to be a Windrush case and then only apologising to them is pathetic.#hostileenvironmentstillhostile
— BID (@BIDdetention) August 21, 2018
Does the Home Office have a realistic grasp on all the people it has wrongly detained and removed as part of the appalling treatment of the Windrush generation? https://t.co/kenndf6mGb
— Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) August 21, 2018
Windrush Scheme to be tweaked
In his update to the Home Affairs committee of MPs, dated 21 August, Javid also noted “three key changes” to the Windrush Scheme for helping victims get documents to prove their right to live in the UK:
Firstly, I am clarifying the position of people with the Right of Abode and their children: those who hold Right of Abode and are able to demonstrate strong ties to the UK will be exempted from the requirement to sit the Knowledge of Language and Life test. Applicants who hold Right of Abode but live overseas, will be able to obtain a free Certificate of Entitlement which confirms their status.
I am making clear who is and isn’t a Commonwealth citizen for consideration under the Scheme, again this is simply a clarification and is already clearly set out in Statutory Instrument I laid in Parliament on Windrush and does not make any changes of substance or exclude anyone previously eligible from the ambit of the Scheme. This is a necessary clarification as some members of the Commonwealth, such as Rwanda, Cameroon and Mozambique, joined the Commonwealth at a much later date.
Lastly, I am making the position of children of the Windrush generation whose parents have died, explicit on the face of the Scheme: where a parent has died prior to 1 January 1973, it is sufficient that they were settled in the UK before their death for the child to be considered under the Scheme.
There have also been some “simplifying changes”, and the accompanying guidance has been republished without the extensive redactions of “official sensitive” information in the previous version. The redacted information appears to have been a series of cheat sheets on who qualifies for the Windrush Scheme, who does not, and what civil servants can do in different scenarios (see page 34 of the new guidance)
None of these textual changes appear to have been made yet. These changes were made just after midnight on 22 August.
Almost 2,300 people have now been issued documents confirming their right to live in the UK, Javid said, with over 10% taking longer than the two-week target.
Javid cryptic on resumption of hostile environment bank account closures
Finally, Javid’s letter touched on the suspension of migrant bank account closures that was announced in May in response to Windrush. It confirms that the department has “significantly restricted pro-active data sharing with banks and building societies via Cifas (the specified anti-fraud authority)”, only passing on the details of people “subject to deportation due to criminal activity”. It continues:
These arrangements are still in place, but following our May notice to the financial sector asking them to await Home Office instructions, we issued a further notice on 8 August detailing the course of action banks and building societies must now take in relation to fulfilling legal obligations under the Immigration Act 2014 banking measures.
That’s it; frustratingly, there is nothing on what the new instructions to banks actually are. If any reader has seen them, do let us know.
This article was originally published on 21 August and updated the following day to reflect the updated Windrush Scheme documents.