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Black Equity Organisation launches legal action against the Home Secretary over broken Windrush promise

BY BEO | 06/04/2023

Black Equity Organisation (BEO) has started legal proceedings against Suella Braverman for refusing to implement all the recommendations from the independent review into the Windrush scandal.

Legal papers have been sent to the Secretary of State this week, following her announcement on 26 January 2023 that she would break the promise made by her predecessor and disregard three of the 30 recommendations.

The recommendations scrapped were, to run reconciliation events, to introduce a Migrants’ Commissioner and to review the remit and role of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

BEO is seeking a Judicial Review of the Home Secretary’s ‘unlawful’ decision. Legal papers from the charity cite the ‘chilling attempt’ by Braverman to limit the independent and robust scrutiny of the Home Office, shut victims out of the reconciliation process and continue with the policy, without assessing or understanding the impact it will have on victims.

In 2018 Wendy Williams CBE conducted an independent Review into the scandal, that saw hundreds of the Caribbean Windrush generation who legally arrived and settled in the UK after the Second World War, treated as illegal migrants – some were denied the right to work, to rent homes and to access NHS services and care. Others were detained and even deported.

Her report cited ‘a culture of disbelief and carelessness’ in the Home Office, with its failings ‘demonstrating an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation’.

Williams made 30 recommendations to the Home Office that would see the Department acknowledge the wrongs done, open itself up to greater external scrutiny and develop a more humane culture.

The legal action comes as Black communities mark the five-year anniversary of the exposure of the Windrush scandal. As part of the ongoing campaign to secure justice for victims, a petition signed by over 50,000 people, urging the Home Secretary to rethink her decision, will be delivered to No 10 Downing Street at 11am on Thursday April 6.

A letter to the Prime Minister, signed by Windrush survivors, community groups and celebrities, including actor David Harewood OBE, broadcasters Dame Denise Lewis, Colin Jackson OBE and Brenda Emmanus OBE, David Olusoga, Professor of Public History and Black Equity Organisation Trustee, singer Beverley Knight OBE, Bridgerton actors Adjoa Andoh and Golda Rosheuvel and Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE, artistic Director of the Young Vic and Black Equity Organisation Trustee, will also be delivered.

BEO Chief Executive Dr Wanda Wyporska said: “The Home Secretary’s decision to disregard three of the report recommendations is an echo of the very insensitivity cited in the Williams Review.

“Victims have been campaigning for years for justice. They’ve been fighting to have their voices heard and their cases resolved. The Home Secretary’s decision has shown that allowing the Home Office to be in charge of cleaning up its own mess and recompensing the Windrush generation, would result in the internal needs of the Department trumping those of the victims.

“The Home Office must be opened up to independent scrutiny and  forced to honour the promises made in its name. Windrush survivors have been through enough and this latest twist in a shameful story adds insult to injury.”

Patrick Vernon, Windrush campaigner and social commentator said: “As we approach 5th anniversary of the Windrush Scandal there is no still justice or even reconcilliation with the survivors,family members affected and the wider Windrush Generation to resolve one of the biggest human rights abuses and structural racism in Britain over the last 75 years since the arrival of Empire Windrush. We call on the government  to implement all recommendations of Lessons Learned Review and to establish a process to transfer Windrush Compensation scheme to an independent body or agency to build confidence and fast track payments to survivors and family members.”

Veronica Hawking, Head of Campaigns at 38 Degrees, which worked on the development of the petition, said: “This petition shows that tens of thousands of members of the public are standing side-by-side with the Windrush Generation.

“They expect the Government to keep its promise and right the wrongs done to a generation that has contributed so much to Britain – not ignore independent recommendations and continue dropping key commitments.”