Windrush: Racist injustice continues

Protestors demonstrate for solidarity with the Windrush generation

The Windrush Taskforce set up to ‘do right by’ the Windrush Generation is routinely missing its target of processing applications within two weeks, with some remaining unresolved after two months. The number exceeding this limit rose from 3% in May to 16% in June. The first outright refusals by the Taskforce are being issued. Any potential compensation has been delayed until at least October, and the scheme is dogged by the scandalous requirement for its applicants to sign non-disclosure agreements. Meanwhile, the estimated number of those affected continues to rise, and there is no prospect of an interim hardship fund. The wheels of justice move slowly, if at all, for the targets of Britain’s racist state. Séamus Padraic reports.

The government refuses to publish an estimate of the total number of people affected. By July, the Home Office had identified 63 cases of potentially illegal deportation.* According to the latest announcement in August, 164 people may now have been wrongly removed or detained. Home Secretary Sajid Javid has committed to apologise to just 18 of those people.

In July, the Taskforce distinguished between 31 administrative removals, who it ‘proactively’ tried to contact, and 32 ‘foreign national offenders’ to be ignored. In August’s figures, those with criminal convictions were simply not counted. The government has chosen not to release the number of cases of a ‘criminal case type’ as Javid is making ‘a purposeful distinction’. On 21 September, Javid announced that the first refusals of applications would take place. The first category deemed ineligible are those with ‘serious’ criminal convictions. These individuals, who were once told they were British citizens, are now receiving a double punishment for their crimes as they face deportation – a denial of basic rights which demonstrates the contempt that the British state has for those it deems criminals.

The second category to be refused are those who have applied from abroad but who have been unable to provide evidence that they were settled in the UK before 1 January 1973. The insistence on splitting Windrush cases into different categories is designed to ensure that as little justice as possible is delivered. In the month to 21 September, just 933 additional people were able to secure documentation confirming their right to be in the UK, and only 151 additional people were granted citizenship, bringing the total numbers to 2,398 and 2,121 respectively.

Not long after the scandal broke, the Home Office announced that it would establish a compensation scheme. To date, there has been no announcement about when the scheme will begin, and the prospect of any pay-out has been delayed until at least October while the ‘lessons learned review’ carries out a series of ‘roadshows’ to collect evidence. There will be a ‘cap’. According to a Home Office consultation document, ‘It is important to ensure that no individual receives a disproportionately high payment from the public purse.’

Compensation plans are also dogged by concerns that the Home Office is attempting to buy the silence of those affected. In July, it emerged that an undisclosed number were paid compensation by the Home Office on the condition that they sign non-disclosure agreements. On 16 July, Javid told Parliament that, under the compensation scheme, ‘No one will be asked to sign any kind of non-disclosure agreement or anything like that.’ Just three days earlier, however, he had written to the Home Affairs Select Committee  and confirmed that ‘settlement offers are sometimes accompanied by confidentiality clauses, depending on individual circumstances’. A Home Office spokesman explained that these cases ‘predated the Windrush compensation scheme’. It remains to be seen whether the scheme, when it emerges, simply replaces ‘non-disclosure agreements’ with ‘confidentiality clauses’. It seems cash may be forthcoming if it helps this all to go away.

In Parliament on 4 September, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes made clear that the government had no intention of ending the ‘hostile environment’, which it has rebranded a ‘compliant environment’. This is a set of policies and practices designed to make life as unpleasant as possible, by denying access to housing, healthcare, employment and welfare, in order to encourage ‘voluntary’ deportations and the super-exploitation of migrant labour.

The Conservatives continue to pretend to be baffled by how the Windrush Generation ‘came to be entangled’ in the hostile environment. Labour argues that the hostile environment, alongside net deportation targets, is responsible for the scandal. While the hostile environment has certainly played a crucial role, decades of immigration policy by both parties lie at the root (see FRFI 264). On 21 August, Javid pointed out that cases of illegal removal and detention had happened ‘over many years under successive governments’. He later responded to Labour MP David Lammy on Twitter, saying ‘Let’s not play party political games. Far too important. Around half of the 164 were under Labour’. On the Sunday Politics show on 9 September, he suggested the Labour Party should apologise.

That Labour, like the Conservatives, remains a thoroughly racist party is shown by the position being put forward by Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott. In a speech outlining Labour’s plans for post-Brexit immigration, Abbott attacked the hostile environment and pledged to ‘review’ citizenship registration charges, which she described as ‘discriminatory and unjustifiable’ (apparently not ‘unjustifiable’ enough to justify abolishing them). But in the same speech, she outlined plans to increase the number of border guards and to improve ‘efficiency’ in removing ‘illegal immigrants’. Abbott explained that immigration policy under a future Labour government will reflect the fact that ‘We have economic needs that dictate we need migrants.’ FRFI is clear: the desire to tie immigration to the needs of British capitalism is a racist standpoint long shared by both the Labour and Conservative Parties. The Windrush Scandal is not an aberration but the logical result of Britain’s border control system, which, in this imperialist country, must necessarily be racist.

* ‘Windrush: No end to racist immigration policy in sight’ https://tinyurl.com/y93dhf8a

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 266 October/November 2018

 

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