MPs call for urgent hardship fund for victims

The government must urgently set up a hardship fund to help victims of the Windrush scandal who have fallen into financial difficulty, MPs have said.

Members of the Windrush generation, who arrived in the UK from 1948, as well as their children, have been wrongly targeted and in some cases left destitute by Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policies, which require employers, NHS staff, private landlords and other bodies to demand evidence of people’s citizenship or immigration status.

What is the Windrush deportation crisis?

Who are the Windrush generation?

They are people who arrived in the UK after the second world war from Caribbean countries at the invitation of the British government. The first group arrived on the ship MV Empire Windrush in June 1948.

What happened to them?

An estimated 50,000 people faced the risk of deportation if they had never formalised their residency status and did not have the required documentation to prove it.

Why now?

It stems from a policy, set out by Theresa May when she was home secretary, to make the UK ‘a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants’. It requires employers, NHS staff, private landlords and other bodies to demand evidence of people’s citizenship or immigration status.

Why do they not have the correct paperwork and status?

Some children, often travelling on their parents’ passports, were never formally naturalised and many moved to the UK before the countries in which they were born became independent, so they assumed they were British. In some cases, they did not apply for passports. The Home Office did not keep a record of people entering the country and granted leave to remain, which was conferred on anyone living continuously in the country since before 1 January 1973.

What is the government doing to resolve the problem?

A new Home Office team was set up to ensure Commonwealth-born long-term UK residents would no longer find themselves classified as being in the UK illegally. But a month after one minister promised the cases would be resolved within two weeks, many remain destitute.

The influential home affairs select committee has called for a hardship fund to be set up after hearing the stories of victims including Anthony Bryan, who lost his job when he was told he was in the country illegally, and Sarah O’Connor, who has been unable to get work or claim benefits.

The committee has made the move ahead of the conclusion of a broader inquiry into the scandal.

Yvette Cooper, the committee chair, said: “Some of the Windrush generation are facing destitution. People are having to settle legal bills, or are facing bailiffs due to debts run up when they were forced to give up work or had their social security payments stopped through no fault of their own. The government must step in to help people immediately.

“Due to the seriousness of this issue, the home affairs select committee has agreed an urgent short report recommending that the government create a hardship fund, immediately, for those of the Windrush generation facing financial difficulties.”

The government has agreed to set up a compensation scheme, but the process is likely to be lengthy, involving a consultation and a call for evidence from victims of the scandal. Lawyers have begun preparing group compensation claims on behalf of members of the Windrush generation.

As at the end of May, the number of potential Windrush cases reported to the Home Office had passed 5,000.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *