A BRITISH GOVERNMENT SCHEME to compensate Windrush victims is failing and violating their right to an effective remedy for human rights abuses they suffered at the hands of the Home Office, says international human rights organisation Human Rights Watch..

In May 2018, then-prime minister Theresa May apologised for the scandal in which Black Britons who had arrived in the United Kingdom from the Caribbean after World War II were required, after living and working in the UK for decades, to meet impossible government requirements to prove their UK citizenship or residence rights. As a result, they lost jobs, homes, health care, pensions, and benefits. In many cases, they were detained, deported, and separated from their families.

“Five years after the Windrush scandal came to light, the Home Office compensation scheme is compounding its injustice by denying claimants their right to redress for the life-altering losses and negative effects it has had on their lives for years”, said Almaz Teffera, researcher on racism in Europe at Human Rights Watch. “The UK government should hand over the compensation scheme to an independent body that guarantees each claimant a fair and independent hearing.”

In April 2019  the Home Office opened the Windrush Compensation Scheme to compensate members and relatives of the Windrush generation for losses and hardships they suffered as a result of not being able to prove their lawful status in the UK.

Human Rights Watch interviewed over a dozen people with first hand knowledge of the claims process in February 2023, and found that the scheme is unfit for purpose and requires urgent reform to protect the rights of claimants. As of January 2023, only 12.8 per cent of the estimated 11,500 eligible claimants had been compensated.

There was a strong consensus among those interviewed by Human Rights Watch that, in the words of one claimant, the compensation scheme “was designed to fail the people who were supposed to benefit from it.”

“The failure of the Windrush Compensation Scheme and the scandal itself are connected to unresolved institutional racism that dates back to the British Empire”, Teffera said. “To avoid more Windrush-style scandals, the UK government should urgently reform its immigration system in response to international and national concerns about the existence of deeply rooted racism.”

Recommendations to the Government

  • To ensure its credibility with claimants, remove the Windrush Compensation Scheme from the Home Office and identify or create an independent and neutral body or organisation to operate it.
  • Given the significant procedural delays claimants have experienced, in the interim, direct the Home Office to ensure more transparent, independent oversight over its administration of the scheme, including quarterly, detailed public reports on the scheme’s operation by the independent assessor.
  • Ensure that legal aid is guaranteed to all eligible claimants. Providing legal aid to claimants would also help limit arbitrary decision-making and most likely would speed up the process by ensuring more timely processing of applications by the Home Office.
  • Provide claimants with the right of appeal by an independent and impartial tribunal and make such appeal decisions binding. This is essential to ensure that there is an effective review of decisions.
  • Lower the burden of proof for claims and compensate fully for losses and impact on life, regardless of the complexity.

* Read the full report from Human Rights Watch here.

* Source: Human Rights Watch