This Writer was hoping people affected by the Windrush scandal would have something to say about the government’s attempt to whitewash institutional racism in the UK.
And they do.
The Windrush scandal happened because a Conservative Home Secretary deliberately destroyed documents that proved people who immigrated into the UK to help rebuild after World War Two – and their descendants – had a right to remain here.
Years later, after allowing time for those affected to forget that there was likely to be any problem, the Tory government started contacting members of the so-called “Windrush generation” and their descendants, declaring that there was no record of their UK citizenship, stripping them of their rights and deporting many of them.
It was, by definition, a racist scandal, instigated by the nation’s most fundamental institution – its government. And now a government run by the same party is trying to claim that the UK does not have a problem with institutional racism.
The report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities mentions Windrush in its foreword, as an instance “where ethnic minority communities have rightly felt let down”, but continues: “Outcomes such as these do not come about by design, and are certainly not deliberately targeted.”
The second, and only other, reference to the scandal comes in the conclusion, when it is mentioned in passing as an exceptional example of things going wrong.
This is clearly inaccurate. The Lessons Learned review, an independent investigation into the causes of the Windrush scandal, found that the Home Office had displayed “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness” on race issues, “consistent with some elements of the definition of institutional racism”.
Let’s see what some of the Windrush generation have to say about it:
Patrick Vernon, whose campaigning helped force the government to take action on Windrush, said: “I can see why they haven’t included it. If they had focused on the scandal they would have had to admit that there was a systematic, structural failure in how the Home Office targeted the Windrush generation.”
Anthony Brown, who runs the Windrush Defenders Legal group in Manchester, and who was himself affected by Windrush problems, said he was frustrated by the suggestion that the scandal had been dealt with and it was time to move on. “I don’t feel that the government has fundamentally taken on board what the Windrush scandal means. A whole cohort of people were marginalised.
“The narrative of the report is that it is up to the individual to succeed: if you work hard, keep your head down, you will achieve and be successful in Britain, and if you don’t then, that’s your fault. The policies of the hostile environment took away people’s rights, but the report tries to say: actually you have all the rights you need.”
Satbir Singh, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said it was remarkable that Windrush attracted barely a passing mention in the report. “To suggest that these are solved problems that do not need addressing is to gaslight millions of people who know the difference between their own lived experiences and the fictions the government would prefer us all to believe,” he said.
Community activist Desmond Jaddoo, who helps run the Windrush National Organisation to secure justice for thousands of people who were wrongly classified as immigration offenders by the Home Office, was disappointed by the report. “There was a culture of not believing members of the Windrush generation, who had to jump through hoops to prove that they were telling the truth.”
Elwaldo Romeo, who was told he was in the UK illegally and faced detention after 59 years in the country, said he was disappointed by what he had heard of the report. “There’s no compassion and no understanding of what we have gone through,” he said. “Of course they want to sweep it under the carpet. Is there racism within the governmentint and the Home Office? Yes.”
Yes there is. Think of the obstacles Priti Patel put in the way of people trying to get the compensation they deserved after being targeted for discrimination.
Even after being told they were wrong, Tory ministers tried to pretend they didn’t owe restitution to the people they had wronged for the injustice they had wrought.
The only question now is how long we have to wait until Boris Johnson retracts the report and apologises for releasing such an arrogant screed of gaslighting propaganda.
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