UK campaigners slam delays in Windrush compensation
On Windrush Day, 22 June - 73 years since HMT Empire Windrush arrived on British shores - campaigners called for a compensation scheme for people affected by Home Office abuses to be handled by an independent body, not the government.
Patrick Vernon, a former Labour councillor in Hackney - who led the campaign to establish 22 June as a national day of remembrance for the Windrush scandal - along with Windrush survivors handed Downing Street a petition with over 93,000 signatures on Friday calling for the compensation scheme to be put in the hands of an independent body.
Although Windrush Day is meant to be a celebration of the Windrush Generation and the wider contribution of migrants in British society, campaigners said the scheme - launched in April 2019 - is slow-paced and insufficient, with many claimants still waiting for compensation two years later.
"It's really sad that we're doing this as part of National Windrush Day," said Vernon, speaking to reporters on Tuesday. "It's about justice and recognising the Windrush generation's legacy".
"[The Home Office] is the wrong organisation - the wrong part of government - to support people who have been traumatised," said Vernon, who accused the department of being "structurally racist".
The Home Office has argued that moving the scheme now would risk significant delays to payments.
We're celebrating with gratitude the 73rd anniversary of the #Windrush generation's arrival to the UK. Thank you for the invaluable contributions you made to the NHS and our society as a whole.#WindrushDay pic.twitter.com/h5Kx2GC9qZ— NHS London (@NHSEnglandLDN) June 22, 2021
The compensation scheme was created following the Windrush scandal in which individuals were wrongly detained and deported by the Home Office.
Many of those impacted by the scandal, which first emerged publicly in 2017, were descendants of people on the Empire Windrush ship which travelled from Jamaica to the UK after the British government encouraged post-war migration from British colonies and promised migrants the same rights to live and work as UK citizens.
The Home Office only spent £8.1 million on the compensation scheme from April 2019 to March 2021 despite budgeting £15.8 million, according to a report by the National Audit Office published in May 2021.
At least 633 claimants have been given financial compensation as of March 2021 said the report, while 117 were deemed eligible for compensation and 210 told they were not entitled to monetary compensation because they did not suffer "losses".
Since March 2020, 230 people have appealed against the Home Office’s decision or offer.
Twenty-one people have died waiting for their Windrush compensation.
A spokesperson for The Home Office said: “We are determined to put right the terrible injustices faced by the Windrush generation by successive governments. This is why we established the compensation scheme. But we know there was more to do.”
Anthony Bryan, a Windrush survivor arrested twice and detained in Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, said: “The Home Office took away my liberty, livelihood, sanity, and fellow friends and campaigns.
“They have offered me a compensation package which does not reflect what I need to build my life again and to move forward with my family.”
The campaign led by Vernon and Windrush victims is demanding that the compensation scheme be made more accessible and that a full apology is issued with every single compensation letter.