‘British govt broke law in immigrant clampdown’

26 November, 2020 12:00 AM printer

LONDON: The British government broke the law with a hardline immigration policy that left a “shameful stain”, deporting members of the “Windrush” generation of Caribbean migrants in the UK, a watchdog said on Wednesday, reports AFP.

In a new report, the state Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) castigated the interior ministry’s “hostile environment” policy, which was designed to make life miserable for illegal immigrants and encourage them to leave Britain voluntarily.

The commission’s findings are enforceable in law, and its report requires the ministry to ensure its treatment of immigrants respects equality legislation, “particularly through proper engagement with affected groups”.

“The treatment of the Windrush generation as a result of hostile environment policies was a shameful stain on British history,” EHRC interim chair Caroline Waters said. “It is unacceptable that equality legislation... was effectively ignored in the creation and delivery of policies that had such profound implications for so many people’s lives,” she said.

In 2017, the Windrush scandal caused uproar when it emerged a generation of Britons of Caribbean origin who moved to the UK legally in the 1950s and 1960s had been wrongly detained or deported for being illegal immigrants.

MV Empire Windrush was one of the ships that brought workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other islands, to help fill post-war UK labour shortages during that period. The immigrants were caught up in the wider “hostile environment” policy introduced in 2012 by then home secretary Theresa May, who went on to become prime minister.

Reacting to the EHRC report, Home Secretary Priti Patel reaffirmed her intent to “right the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation”.

But lawmakers have launched an inquiry into long delays by her department in offering compensation to ageing Windrush victims, some of whom have died since the scandal broke.

“This is a damning report from the EHRC which shows how much the Home Office needs to change,” said Yvette Cooper, opposition Labour chair of the home affairs select committee in the House of Commons.