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‘Should be a day for celebration’: Windrush generation still deserve justice, government told

·3-min read
A woman gathers for a Windrush generation solidarity protest in Brixton, 20 April, 2018 (EPA-EFE)
A woman gathers for a Windrush generation solidarity protest in Brixton, 20 April, 2018 (EPA-EFE)

A south London council home to many constituents of Caribbean origin has urged the Home Office to ramp up its support for victims of the Windrush scandal.

In a letter to the Home Secretary Priti Patel on the anniversary of Windrush Day, Southwark Councillor Alice Macdonald, cabinet member for equalities, neighbourhoods and leisure, has challenged the government on the compensation scheme.

The council has also called upon the government to provide extra funding and support to help those affected to access free, high quality legal and immigration advice.

“Since 2019, thousands of people have been affected by this scandal, but many are reluctant, and often frightened, to ask for help,” it reads.

“As of May 2021, only an estimated 19 per cent of those people known to be eligible for help have come forward. By the end of May 2021, 2,367 claims had been made, but only 687 people had been awarded payments.”

Cllr Macdonald said: “Southwark is immensely proud of its diversity and the positive contribution of generations of people from the Caribbean. We cannot right the past wrongs, but it is our duty to ensure that our residents receive justice, and where they need support, I want them to know we are here to help them get what is due to them.

“We will hold the government to account on their promise to pay compensation, and we will continue to do all we can to ensure that this atrocity is never forgotten.”

The Windrush Compensation Scheme (WCS) was launched in April 2019 to compensate members of the Windrush generation and their families for the losses and impacts they have suffered as a result of not being able to demonstrate their lawful immigration status.

Southwark is home to many families of Caribbean origin. Though it is not known how many of residents of the borough may be entitled to compensation through the Windrush Compensation Scheme, it is estimated to be nearly 2,000, The Independent understands.

The 2011 census found that of 7,750 Southwark residents born in the Caribbean, 5,500 held a UK passport and 2,000 held passports from the Caribbean or Americas.

The council has asked the government to clarify data on how many people in its borough have applied for or received compensation. The Home Office does not currently release data on applications at the local authority level.

Signatories of the letter include Marina Ahmad, London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark; Sally Causer, Executive Director – Southwark Law Centre, Neil Coyle MP, Member of Parliament for Bermondsey and Old Southwark Harriet Harman MP, Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham Helen Hayes MP, Member of Parliament for Dulwich and West Norwood.

The Windrush Lessons Learned Review by Wendy Williams found that the causes of the scandal can be traced back through successive rounds of policy and legislation around immigration and nationality from the 1960s onwards, the aim of which was to restrict the eligibility of certain groups to live in the UK.

A Home Office review of deportations 2018-19 found 164 cases of Caribbean nationals having been resident in the UK prior to 1973. It is estimated that the total numbers of people directly affected may be in the high hundreds or low thousands.

Some 21 people have died while awaiting for Windrush compensation, amid continuing concern that the scheme is taking too long to make payments to elderly people affected by the scandal, official figures show.

Southwark Law Centre’s legal team is aware of at least two Windrush clients who died before their immigration matters concluded in their favour and before compensation was paid.

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