Priti Patel’s department should move swiftly in order to prove its commitment to any reform. The author of a report into the Windrush scandal has recently told MP’s that the Home Office has failed to make any adequate progress in reversing its hostile environment policies and should move swiftly in order to prove that it is not merely paying ‘lip service’ to the idea of reform.
The author of ‘Lessons learned’ review into the causes of the immigration scandal, which was published earlier this year, and written by Wendy Williams, said that the department risked losing a once-in-a-generation opportunity for change. She also expressed surprise that only 168 people had received compensation two and a half years after the government first apologised for mistakenly misclassifying thousands of legal British residents as illegal immigrants.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, had committed to implementing all 30 of the recommendations which were made in the report. Williams, however, expressed concern that there was no immediate plan to appoint a commissioner to represent the unheard voices of migrants. She said she was also concerned there had been so little progress in reviewing the compliant immigration environment policies – previously known as hostile environments policies – which Theresa May introduced to reduce net migration, and which caused most of the difficulties that were experienced by those caught up in the Windrush scandal.
She said: “As far as the review of the compliant environment policy is concerned, there is not the detail or the speed of activity that I would have expected. The timescales and the activities are not ambitious enough and I would expect to have seen much more progress made”.
“The department has a choice. It could really embrace the recommendations or it could pay lipservice to the recommendations, and not institute a fundamental cultural change. This is a seminal moment for the department”.
Williams repeated her conclusion that the Home Office required urgent reform, and added that senior members of the department failed to understand the impact of some of its complicated immigration policies. “A very senior member of the department said that they did not believe, and indeed the department also accepted this, that there was anyone in the department who understood the full impact of its own policies and legislation”.
She said: “The department need to improve diversity at senior levels in order to avoid a repeat of the Windrush scandal”. Despite an overall ‘positive picture’ with black and minority ethnic employees making up 26% of the home office workforce, unfortunately when you look at the detail, those staff are concentrated in the two most junior grades, and when one goes up the department in the terms of seniority, the numbers dwindle away to single figures, whether in terms of numbers or percentages”.
A department who ‘really doesn’t understand the history of migration the the UK, British Colonial history, and the impact of its own policies and where they intersect is a department that is labouring and it needs to address that’.
Williams also went on to say that she had often found the experience of speaking to people affected by the scandal during her research ‘shocking’ going on to say that most people were bewildered and incredulous at what had happened to them.
The home secretary’s priorities are very clearly not focused on ‘righting the wrong’ of Windrush, but on pursuing the same approach of unbridled hostility that created them.