The treatment of the Windrush generation is one of this country’s greatest contemporary scandals. In the independent inquiry that followed, Wendy Williams made 30 recommendations in her March 2020 Windrush Lessons Learned Review (WLLR) report.
All the recommendations were accepted by the Home Secretary, then Priti Patel. To date (26 January 2023), only eight of those recommendations have been met, and a further 13 partially met. Nine have not been met.
It is deeply concerning that the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has today announced that three of those (unmet) recommendations are now being “discontinued”, namely:
• Recommendation 3: For the Home Office to run a programme of reconciliation events with members of the Windrush generation;
• Recommendation 9: Introduce a Migrants’ Commissioner responsible for speaking up for migrants and those affected by the system directly or indirectly; and
• Recommendation 10: Review the remit and role of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), to include consideration of giving the ICIBI more powers with regard to publishing reports.
We are dismayed that the Home Secretary has seen fit not to continue with these recommendations. It is our strong belief that the Government should maintain its commitment to seeking to right the shameful wrongs inflicted upon members of the Windrush generation and their wider families. Moreover, it must ensure that these wrongs and mistakes are never repeated.
We are particularly concerned that abandoning two of the commitments – namely the introduction of a Migrants’ Commissioner and the review of the ICIBI’s role and remit – will remove vital measures for improving ‘the accountability, effectiveness and legitimacy of the system’ (WLLR, page 141).
In the September 2020 Comprehensive Improvement Plan, the Home Secretary at the time stated she:
• Agreed the Migrants’ Commissioner ‘would be a valuable role, to engage with migrant communities directly and facilitate their feedback into the Home Office to be considered in our policy development and operational activity’; and
• Would ‘seek to appoint an independent reviewer this year and plan to carry out a full review of the ICIBI in the first quarter of 2021 with a view to making the ICIBI more independent, effective and efficient. The review will consider the capabilities, organisational structure, role and remit of the ICIBI, as well as considering whether to establish a duty on the Home Office to explain why it is not accepting recommendations.’
However, no progress has been made with the Migrants’ Commissioner. In her March 2022 Progress Update, Wendy Williams noted (at page 92),
‘This situation means that so far, the department has been unable to reap the benefits that opening itself up to wider scrutiny would bring. Since my original report was published, there have been a number of occasions where, for example, the expertise and independence of a Migrants’ Commissioner could have provided an evidence-based perspective on migration policy proposals. I consider that an independent office holder would bring added benefits by helping the department to negotiate the complex migration stakeholder landscape.
It was to the department’s immense credit that it accepted Recommendation 9. By failing to implement what would be the cornerstone of its plan for engaging effectively with the public, the department risks undermining its stated commitment to transparency and effective policy making, as well as the efforts to rebuild its reputation.’
Furthermore, David Neal, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), has also today spoken out to voice his disappointment with the decision. He noted that the Home Office, which is responsible for publishing ICIBI reports, regularly fails to meet its commitment to ensure that reports are published within eight weeks of submission: ‘Of the 23 ICIBI reports that have been published during my tenure, only one was laid in Parliament within the agreed 8-week window. […] Such delays affect perceptions of the ICIBI’s independence and effectiveness and may hinder timely scrutiny of the Home Office’s performance’.
We urge the Government to rethink its approach, and display an openness to external scrutiny, so that lessons may truly be learned.