A Plan for Righting the Wrongs of the Windrush Scandal

As we wait for the announcement of the new prime minister, activist and Windrush Campaigner Patrick Vernon comes up with 10 point plan to finally put the Windrush Scandal and fallout to bed.

Dr Patrick Vernon OBE, Windrush campaigner

With the recent revelations by David Olusaga’s BBC documentary The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files’ found evidence of 70 years of surveillance, monitoring and racism against the Windrush Generation. The recent leaked ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’ also highlighted a deep seated structural and institutional racism at the heart of this government.

The current government proposals around selective apologies, a compensation scheme, and role of the Windrush Taskforce is now not fit for purpose because there is no real intent or commitment to ‘right the wrongs’.

Whichever party or Prime Minister is in power we need a 10-point Windrush plan, not only to restore the confidence of the black community, but also to resolve 70 years of breaches of human right and racism towards the Windrush Generation and their descendants.

The hostile environment needs to be scrapped as this is clearly inherently racist  in nature and breaches the Public Sector Equality Duty,  which has its’ origins in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 that arose from the Stephen Lawrence (Macpherson) public inquiry into the racist murder.

It is also time that visa restrictions applying to several countries in Africa and the Caribbean over the last 15 years are scrapped. And deportations should not be applied to the Windrush Generation and their descendants irrespective of a criminal conviction. This would require also widening the definition of Windrush, meaning that black and brown need to have the same ancestry right as white people from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

The Home Office clearly does not have the leadership, cultural competency and empathy to manage the current process of citizenship and the compensation scheme. The Compensation Scheme needs to be managed by  another government department or independent body along the principles of restorative justice and fairness. The Windrush Generation and their children should have automatic citizenship status without going through the humiliation and degradation of proving their citizenship to Home Office staff.

Anyone that has been directly affected by the Windrush Scandal should have an automatic payment of £100,000 without proving any documentary evidence of hurt or financial loss. In addition, they should still claim for additional losses under the under the 12 headings of the current compensation scheme, and all victims should have access to legal aid or support.

Half a million or more individuals have been given wrong official advice regarding naturalisation and gaining British citizenship since the creation of the 1971 Immigration Act. The government needs to issue a formal apology and to repay back with an interest the costs incurred to victims in hiring lawyers.

As a matter of priority the government must bring back the 29 men that were deported on that infamous charter flight to Jamaica in February 2019 and to work closely with African and Caribbean governments on developing rehabilitation policy and supporting the deportees who cannot access employment opportunities due to stigma and rejection.

The Windrush Scandal which exposes the issues of identity and belonging of the African and Caribbean community in Britain. The oral and personal histories of the Windrush generation and their descendants is a rich source of information for future generations as part of British history and cultural identity. The current Windrush Day Grants and Memorial Committee is wedded to the government which does not reflect  the views and experiences of the African and Caribbean community.

Establishing a Windrush Day funding body, similar to the Holocaust Memorial Education Trust, with an independent Chair annual revenue of at least  £5million to support Windrush Day activities will help develop resources like learning material for schools to influence the national curriculum.

In addition, as part of the government failure and systematic discrimination of the Windrush generation over the last 70 years in undermining the citizenship status and human rights we need a comprehensive a restorative programme  for the whole black community in Britain . The government should fund a Windrush Endowment Fund of at least £1 billion to support the preservation and legacy of the Windrush Generation and the history migration. The Fund Provide could provide core funding to organisations like Black Cultural Archives, the Migration Museumand other BME led heritage organisations. Like the Smithsonian National African American Museum of Culture in Washington, I believe  we need a similar establishment in the UK or even a Museum on Windrush Generation and its legacy in Britain.

The fund could be used to provide scholarships and fellowships targeting African and Caribbean students and historians to undertake further research work on the history of Windrush Generation  and the contribution to Britain.

One of the major consequences and impact of the Windrush Scandal and hostile environment is around health and wellbeing. My observations working with victims and their families the government have social engineered ‘Hostile Environment trauma’ caused by loss of liberty and detention; degradation and humiliation; death; attempted suicide, bereavement; anxiety and depression; hypertension and stroke; food deprivation; isolation and loneliness; deportation fatigue; and intergenerational trauma.

We require a national health and wellbeing programme programme around post traumatic impact of the hostile environment on the Windrush Generation and their descendants with funding and commissioning for culturally relevant and specific organisations who can provide range of therapeutic, art therapy and counselling services.

I believe if some of the above recommendations were adopted, and involved co-production and engagement with African and Caribbean organisations, it would create a new dialogue in attempting to righting the wrongs, not just with the Windrush Scandal, but restoring and preserving cultural heritage of this and other communities caught up in the hostile environment.

Dr Patrick Vernon OBE, Windrush campaigner