Government Showed "Institutional Ignorance" To Windrush Generation, Says Report

by Isobel Lewis
Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

Two years after the Windrush scandal first emerged, a new review has concluded that the government demonstrated "institutional ignorance". The report was led by Wendy Williams, one of Her Majesty’s inspectors of the constabulary and, per The Times, is highly damning of the Home Office's behaviour towards members of the Windrush generation.

The scandal, which broke in 2018, saw people who had arrived to the UK from Commonwealth countries such as Jamaica between 1958 and 1971 illegally detained or deported, despite having the right to live in Great Britain.

The Home Office was accused of creating a “hostile environment” through its anti-immigration programme, per The Guardian. Prime Minister Theresa May apologised to the Windrush generation at the time, with Williams’ report being commissioned to review the government’s behaviour during the political scandal.

Williams writes that thanks to the tightening of controls on immigration from successive governments, the Windrush generation were “disregard[ed]," and ministers and officials acted too slowly. She says that a “culture of disbelief and carelessness” developed around applications, with people who had lived in the UK since childhood being told they were illegally claiming residence due to a lack of official paperwork.

The Home Office's actions led to people who had lived in the UK their entire lives being refused access to benefits, losing their jobs and in some cases being deported to countries they’d never lived in (something which is still happening today).

Despite all this, the review stops short of concluding that the treatment of Windrush immigrants was institutionally racist, instead stating that the behaviour towards this generation of immigrants from the Caribbean was consistent with “some elements” of the definition of widespread racism.

Williams concluded: “While I am unable to make a definitive finding of institutional racism, I have serious concerns that these failings demonstrate an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of Windrush generation within the department which are consistent with some elements of the definition of institutional racism.”