Leader Comment: Windrush scandal is a stain on the UK that must be cleaned up

Jamaican immigrants are welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office after the ex-troopship Empire Windrush landed them at Tilbury in 1948. Picture: PA
Jamaican immigrants are welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office after the ex-troopship Empire Windrush landed them at Tilbury in 1948. Picture: PA
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FOR those caught up in it, the Windrush scandal is the stuff of nightmares.

Having lived in the UK for decades, many immigrants from Commonwealth countries have been told they are in the UK illegally and ordered to either prove otherwise or leave. British citizens welcomed here as children have been treated as mere numbers in a bureaucratic exercise flawed by the fact it is the UK Government which failed to retain the necessary records relating the citizenship of immigrants who came to Britain from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971. The first that many knew about their questioned status was when they received letters informing them they were illegal aliens. What a humiliating thing to happen to people who have every right to consider themselves British.

If the very fact of the existence of this bureaucratic mess wasn’t scandal enough, the political response to it has been pitifully lacking. By the time Home Secretary Amber Rudd got to her feet in the House of Commons yesterday, scores of British citizens had suffered the indignity of being treated as unwanted strangers in their home country. Labour MP David Lammy was quite right to describe this as a matter of national shame. The Home Secretary has promised the establishment of a task force in the Home Office which will help members of the Windrush generation, ensuring none lose access to public services and other entitlements. Ms Rudd added that the way some of those caught up in this scandal of the Government’s making had been treated was appalling. She will find no disagreement from us.

It is impossible to consider the plight of the Windrush generation without considering that their race may have had something to do with the careless way their citizenship status was dealt with. We wonder whether, if those affected had been white, any problem would have arisen. Amber Rudd was right to offer an apology to those treated so shamefully by a Home Office that she admitted “sometimes loses sight” of individuals but she must go further.

Those who have suffered due to bureaucratic incompetence should have the right to claim compensation. At the very least, anyone forced out of pocket because they had to hire lawyers or apply again for citizenship should have all costs reimbursed. The Windrush scandal is a stain on the UK and the sooner it’s cleaned up, the better.