Five years after the Windrush scandal was revealed, victims are still facing long waits and inadequate offers of compensation, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. The global human rights group has called for the Home Office-run compensation scheme to be handed to an independent body.
The scandal, which unfolded in April 2018, affected people who arrived in the UK from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1971, as well as those from non-Caribbean countries that were previously British colonies. Many of those affected were unable to find work and housing or access to healthcare, while some were wrongfully deported.
Thomas Tobierre, 69, told the BBC he came to the UK as a young child from St Lucia in 1965, when the Caribbean nation was still a British colony. He worked as an engineer for about five decades, mostly for the same firm, but was unable to take on another job after being made redundant in 2017 due to not being able to prove his legal status.
The Home Office initially offered him £3,000 in compensation, which was revised up to £16,000 after an appeal. Mr Tobierre accepted the settlement as he needed to pay for house adaptations for his wife, Caroline, who had stage four cancer. When Caroline applied for compensation as a close family member of someone impacted, she was asked for documents that had either been lost or never existed.
Jacqueline McKenzie, a solicitor representing hundreds of Windrush victims, said the scheme was “torturing people” by asking them for “copious amounts of evidence which people just don’t have”. She added that the issues with the scheme appeared to be “getting worse” despite having had four years to make improvements.
Human Rights Watch has said people should be entitled to legal aid for their compensation application, as the process is “complex, subject to arbitrary decision makers and just not accessible”. It also said the burden of proof placed on victims is “unreasonable”, requiring them to track down employers and landlords who turned them down a number of years ago.
The Home Office has stated it is “committed to righting the wrongs of Windrush” and has paid or offered more than £68m in compensation to the people affected. It has also said it will “make sure that similar injustices can never be repeated and are creating a Home Office worthy of every community it serves”.
However, five years on from the scandal, Windrush victims are still facing long waits and inadequate offers of compensation. Human Rights Watch has called for the Home Office-run compensation scheme to be handed to an independent body in order to ensure victims get the justice they deserve.