As we celebrate, we also struggle and re-energise all our campaigns for justice.
The hostile environment has caused such deep suffering, and whipped up racism against communities of colour, and therefore all of us. A damning Parliamentary report (6 March 2019) lays out how the Home Office is continuing the brutal treatment of Windrush survivors and descendants. It says the Home Office “failed in its duty to protect the rights of people to live, work and access services in the UK”.
This is not accidental, but policy given a title to signal its impact: the hostile environment.
The report says the Home Office created a system that “manufactured ‘precarious lives’”. They targeted older, poorer and the most vulnerable people of colour. It’s estimated that up to 500,000 people in the UK could be affected. We need to know from the Home Office how many UK citizens were deported, and to which countries.
Far from just “failing to protect” people, it was the government itself that designed and carried out policies to attack and terrorise tens of thousands of families, and make people homeless, jobless, stateless, to destroy families and communities, and to deport.
The Home Office admit their impact assessments “were not done to the standard required” and were “weak” and “tick box”. Their tradition of racism paved the way for the “really hostile environment” Theresa May called for. For over 5 years they ignored a stream of complaints from Windrush families, MPs, solicitors and others.
Racism means we are more likely to be criminalised – 17 times more likely to be stopped and searched and xxx more likely to get a conviction. This is used to undermine public support for those still threatened deportation. If they ever get to compensation, those they have criminali sed maybe denied, even though they have been deeply wronged.
In 2012, the coalition government made a £40 million outsourcing deal with the firm Capita, to remove over 150,000 so-called “irregular” migrants. The “pay by results” basis of the contract amounts to a bounty for each person whose life was shattered by deportation.
Incredibility, it took 8 months to set up the hardship fund for “those in urgent and exceptional need”. As of the end of December, only one person had received a payment. There is still no date for compensation to be paid. The task force set up is described as inadequate, and according to those who’ve tried to access it, it is unhelpful and sometimes giving misleading information.
People from all over the Commonwealth have been affected, but little has been done to promote the government’s “Windrush scheme” – for example in Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe. The government has resumed mass deportations to the Caribbean and other countries, including people with Windrush connections.
We demand that MPs defend us from this vicious policy, aimed at destroying or deporting as many as half a million people of colour.
Windrush families, not NGOs, must lead the way in getting Windrush justice. At a public meeting in May 2018, with Windrush families, asylum seekers, EU nationals, Lawyers, trade unionists, Labour Party and other activists, the following demands were agreed unanimously:
- Restore citizenship and pay compensation to all the Windrush generation, their descendants, and all those affected
- Immediate amnesty; stop all deportations until the Windrush crisis is resolved and the hostile environment abolished
- Scrap the 2012 and 2014 legislation which turns us into border guards against our neighbours.
- immediately release all figures showing how many people were illegally deported, held in detention, lost homes, jobs, benefits, pensions or were separated from loved ones; how many have suffered serious harm, or died as a consequence.
- Restore legal aid for all Windrush claimants
- End destitution