UK: Immigration minister says sorry for Windrush generation’s treatment

Needed apology but informal (not in Parliament):

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes has issued a “heartfelt apology” to members of the Windrush generation and admitted that she felt “ashamed” of how the Home Office had treated them.

Nokes was addressing dozens of the Windrush generation at a meeting at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, south London, and told them that she had come to listen to their stories and find out about their experiences.

She has come under fire for issuing contradictory statements about whether or not employers would have to make additional checks on EU nationals post-Brexit in the event of no deal.

“The way I always learn best is by talking to people,” she told the members of the Windrush generation who had come to speak to her.

Several people told Nokes and the team of Home Office officials accompanying her about their experiences as a result of Home Office hostile environment policies which the Windrush generation became caught up in. At times the conversation became heated.

Nokes said: “It’s really important, it really matters to me that people have a chance to shout at me. It really is. I just feel really ashamed, that’s the honest truth.

“I feel ashamed the Home Office got it so badly wrong over a long period. I was going to say I have to say sorry but I want to say sorry. I’m really conscious that we have a massive piece of work to do.”

One woman from the Windrush generation told Nokes she had been thrown out of her council accommodation because of a lack of clarity about her immigration status.

“I have kids and grandkids here but the Home Office want to send me back,” she said. “I’m going blind but I’m scared to see a doctor because of my issues with the Home Office.”

The NHS is required to ask about patients’ immigration status and can refuse treatment to those deemed ineligible.

Nokes urged her to speak to the Windrush taskforce but she said she was too scared to do so.

“I don’t want anyone to feel scared,” said Nokes. “It’s stories like this that demonstrate to me that what went wrong went really horribly wrong. I will pick it up and do absolutely everything to help you.”

It emerged during the meeting that not all the applications for redress under the Windrush scheme had reached the government. A Freepost address has been provided for these applications but one person showed Nokes that his application had been sent back to him with a “return to sender” notice. Nokes promised to hand the application over personally to the right person.

Solicitor Jacqueline McKenzie of McKenzie Beute and Pope, who represents some members of the Windrush generation, and is a member of the Windrush Action Group, expressed concern at the low number of people who the Home Office said have been assisted by the Windrush taskforce to regularise their immigration status. There were 2,100 of them, according to the latest published statistics.

“That’s shockingly low,” McKenzie said. Officials declined to respond to her question about how many people the Home Office had brought back from the Caribbean who had been unlawfully removed but said they would be in touch about it.

Nokes apologised several times for treatment of the Windrush generation who had been invited to Britain to help rebuild the country after the second world war.

“We went out and asked for help. Help came. We have treated people shamefully since then. I would like to give everyone a heartfelt apology. We are here to help, we will help,” she said.

Source: Immigration minister says sorry for Windrush generation’s treatment

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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