Are the Windrush generation still being failed by the UK government?
A few months back, top Immigration lawyers welcomed the UK Government’s commitment to address the plight of the Windrush generation. However, many Immigration solicitors remained sceptical that the Windrush Scheme, and associated Windrush taskforce would deal effectively with the injustice that many Commonwealth citizens have faced for many years. Recent reports in publications such as the Guardian, and anecdotal evidence from clients, suggest that the scepticism of British Citizenship lawyers was justified. It seems that many of the Windrush generation continue to wait in limbo while the UK government tries to sort itself out.
The plight of the Windrush generation
When the Windrush scandal broke earlier in 2018, many were horrified to learn of the treatment suffered by Commonwealth citizens, lawfully living in the UK, at the hands of the UK government. This has been exacerbated in recent years by the Conservative government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy adopted by the Home Office under Theresa May’s leadership as Home Secretary. Without appropriate documentation, many of the Windrush generation found themselves denied benefits, housing and access to medical care. Many had their right to be in the UK questioned, with some being refused entry to the UK after spending time abroad.
The best Immigration solicitors in London watched and did their best to support clients, as the extent of the Home Office’s poor treatment of Commonwealth citizens was revealed. The scandal lead to the resignation of Amber Rudd as Home Secretary and the appointment of Sajid Javid in her place. Although Mr Javid appeared to empathise with those affected, he himself the son of Pakistani immigrants who came to the UK in the 1960s, it seems that even under his leadership, the Home Office is still failing the Windrush generation.
The Windrush Scheme
Set up to expedite the resolution of Immigration and nationality issues experienced by members of the Windrush generation who had not obtained the requisite documentation in the years following their arrival in the UK, the Windrush scheme, and the taskforce that has been put in place to administer the scheme has been up and running for some weeks now.
The scheme identifies different groups of Commonwealth citizens who can apply for support. These groups include
- Commonwealth citizens who were settled in the UK before 1 January 1973 and have been continuously resident in the UK since their arrival.
- Commonwealth citizens who were settled in the UK before 1 January 1973 but whose settled status has lapsed because they left the UK for a period of more than 2 years, and are now lawfully in the UK and have close and continuing ties with the UK
- Children of Commonwealth citizens who were settled in the UK before 1 January 1973, where the children were born in the UK or arrived in the UK before the age of 18 and have been continuously resident in the UK since their arrival.
- People of any nationality, who arrived in the UK before 31 December 1988 and are lawfully settled in the UK
Depending on which category the individual making an application under the scheme falls into, the taskforce will decide whether he or she is already a British citizen, and if so, supply documentation to confirm this.
For those whose British Citizenship cannot be confirmed, the taskforce will consider a variety of options including the ability of the individual to register as a British citizen, or whether they can be considered for naturalisation. If registration or naturalisation is not an option, the taskforce will then consider granting a Right of Abode or settled status (Indefinite Leave to Remain) to the individual concerned.
As most Immigration lawyers would expect, it is free to apply under the scheme and there is no charge for the required biometric information. Members of the Windrush generation are not required to demonstrate their knowledge of English, or to pass a Life in the UK test. However, naturalisation as a British citizen will be subject to the usual residence and good character requirements.
How is the Windrush Scheme failing Commonwealth citizens?
The Windrush scheme is not a ‘rubber stamp’ exercise. The taskforce has been set up to help people “to navigate the Immigration system” and although the scheme reassures that the Taskforce “… will continue to take a sympathetic and proactive approach…”, recent reports suggest that this is not happening in practice.
The 18 page application form requires significant amounts of detail, and supporting documentation, such as travel documents demonstrating the date of arrival in the UK, birth or adoption certificates, marriage certificates, documentation relating to Employment or taxation etc. It is possible to make an application without documentation. For many, providing this documentation may be a challenge.
Aside from the challenges of completing the application form, recent reports suggest that he scheme is taking a long time to resolve individual situations, leaving members of the Windrush generation still without housing, benefits, access to Employment. The Guardian reported on 10th August that of 25 people referred to the Windrush taskforce by David Lammy MP’s constituency office in Tottenham, only 3 had received their citizenship and the others remained in limbo. One man was arrested when he attended Home Office premises to collect his biometric card and spent 12 weeks in prison before charges were dropped – even though the Windrush Scheme includes a commitment not to pass any information to Immigration Enforcement.
Another woman was advised that nothing could be done to help her, even though she was unable to support her child while she waited for the regularisation of her status – advice that “wasn’t just callous, it was also completely wrong” according to Satbir Singh, Chief Executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. “It’s appalling that the Home Office effectively told Sharon to go and beg for food, when there are laws requiring the state to act in the best interests of children, and provide financial support to children facing destitution.”
The delays in providing answers to the Windrush generation under the scheme have been labelled ‘completely unacceptable’ by Diane Abbott – and most of the best Immigration solicitors would agree that this is a deeply unsatisfactory situation.
We will continue to act in the best interests of our clients and support them as they make applications to the Windrush Scheme, while advising on any related issues they may have.
If you or a relative are a victim of the Windrush scandal, whether as first generation, or second generation, why not book an appointment with one of OTS Solicitors’ London immigration solicitors? We are highly recommended in the Legal 500 for Immigration and Human Rights matters and will be pleased to help you or your relative resolve any British Citizenship, Immigration or nationality issues you are facing. Call us on 0203 959 9123 to book an appointment.