Extend Windrush row review to India, says UK panel
An influential committee of the British parliament on Wednesday asked the Home Office to extend its review of the ‘Windrush’ controversy to India, where many individuals may have been wrongfully deported over the years.
The ‘Windrush generation’ refers to workers from Commonwealth countries who came to Britain after World War II. They are named after the MV Empire Windrush ship that brought many people from the Caribbean countries to Britain, but also included workers from India and other Commonwealth countries.
Many of this generation stayed on in Britain over the decades but did not obtain necessary documents to regularise their stay, resulting in some being deported, others facing problems in employment and other areas due to lack of paperwork.
So far Britain has granted citizenship to 455 such Indians, who arrived between 1948 and 1988, and whose uncertain residency status was part of the controversy that embarrassed the Theresa May government during the April 2018 Commonwealth summit.
Criticising the Home Office for its handling of the row, the Public Accounts Committee said the department demonstrated a combination of a lack of concern about the real-world impact of its immigration policies compounded by a systemic failure to keep accurate records.
Noting that the Home Office has not undertaken a sample review of wider Commonwealth cases, the committee said it went contrary to the department’s admission that it was reasonable to expect that non-Caribbean nationals may have also been affected and that people from other nationalities, including India, Australia and Nigeria, have approached it.
“The Windrush scandal concerns the entire Commonwealth, not only Caribbean nationals, and while the Department has reviewed 11,800 Caribbean cases, around 1,60,000 non-Caribbean Commonwealth cases remain unreviewed. We believe these people cannot be simply ignored,” the committee said.
According to the latest update, the status of 455 Indians has been regularised: they have either been granted British citizenship or documents showing they have ‘indefinite leave to remain’ or ‘no time limit’ to stay in the country.
Of the 4,55, 367 came to the UK before 1973 and 77 between 1973 and 1988. The figure also includes ten family members and one categorised as ‘unrecorded’. Besides, two Indians who applied overseas as part of the review process were also granted citizenship.
Senior Home Office official Philip Rutnam told the committee in January: “We keep our Windrush communications strategy under constant review and are planning further targeted media to non-Caribbean Commonwealth countries including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh”.
Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said: “The human consequences of this appalling scandal are tragic and well-documented. But there is a long way to go before the Home Office can credibly claim to have put things right”.
“It is deeply regrettable that a scandal of this magnitude, on the back of repeated and unheeded warnings, does not appear to have fully shaken the Home Office out of its complacency about its systemic and cultural problems. This must change now.”