Windrush scandal was 'foreseeable and avoidable' says official report

Windrush scandal was ‘foreseeable and avoidable’ and the Home Office let down victims because of ‘systemic operational failings’, damning official report finds

  • The long-awaited Windrush Lessons Learned Review was finally published today
  • It concluded Home Office was guilty of ‘thoughtlessness to the issue of race’ 
  • But was ‘unable to make definitive finding of institutional racism’ in department 
  • Home Secretary Priti Patel apologised on behalf of current, former governments
  • Review commissioned in 2018 after migrants wrongfully detained or deported 
  • Home Office had branded thousands of legal UK citizens as illegal immigrants 
  • The scandal led to the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd in April 2018 

The Windrush scandal was ‘foreseeable and avoidable’ according to a damning long-awaited independent report into the Home Office’s actions. 

The official Windrush Lessons Learned Review concluded that victims had been badly let down because of ‘systemic operational failings’ at the government department. 

The review also said ‘institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race’ at the Home Office had contributed to the scandal but it was ‘unable to make a definitive finding of institutional racism’.  

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the review demonstrated that ‘lives were ruined and families were torn apart’ and that was ‘simply unacceptable’.  

She said she was ‘truly sorry’ on behalf of the current and previous governments for the way in which the Windrush generation has been treated. 

She also insisted the review showed ‘there are lessons to learn for the Home Office but also society as a whole’. 

It emerged in 2018 that the Home Office had branded thousands of legal UK citizens as illegal immigrants – at least 83 of whom were deported. 

The review, which started in May 2018, was formally submitted to the government yesterday and the Home Office published it this morning.

Wendy Williams, Independent Adviser for the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, said: ‘The Windrush Generation has been poorly served by this country, a country to which they contributed so much and in which they had every right to make their lives. 

‘The many stories of injustice and hardship are heartbreaking, with jobs lost, lives uprooted and untold damage done to so many individuals and families.

‘My report sets out how and why this happened and makes recommendations for change to ensure that the injustices this group of people suffered can never happen again. I urge Ministers and officials to implement my recommendations in full.’

The report has made 30 recommendations to ‘change and improve’ the Home Office. 

The recommendations include that the Home Office must ‘acknowledge its failings’ and ‘open itself up to greater external scrutiny’.

It must also ‘change its culture’ to put people at the heart of migration policy decisions.  

The Empire Windrush was most famous for trips from the West Indies which brought people to work in the UK in the middle of the 20th Century

Home Secretary Priti Patel set out the reviews findings to the House of Commons today. She apologised on behalf of successive governments for the treatment suffered by the Windrush generation

Ms Patel set out the review’s findings to MPs during a statement in the House of Commons as she said people from the Windrush generation had been subjected to ‘insensitive treatment by the very country they called home’.

‘As this review makes clear, some members of this generation suffered terrible injustices spurred by institutional failings spanning successive governments over several decades – including ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the race and history of the Windrush generation,’ she said. 

The Home Secretary said the Home Office is on an ‘ongoing mission’ to put things right. 

She said: ‘Lives were ruined and families were torn apart, and now an independent review has suggested that the Home Office’s institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness to the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation contributed to this. This is simply unacceptable.’ 

Ms Patel added: ‘There are lessons to learn for the Home Office but also society as a whole.’

The Home Secretary said that despite the ‘diverse and open nature’ of the UK ‘too many people still feel they may be treated differently because of who they are or where their parents came from’.

‘We must all look to ourselves, we must all do better at walking in other people’s shoes,’ she said.

‘We must all take responsibility for the failings that led to the unimaginable suffering of this generation.’ 

Ms Patel said there was ‘nothing that I can say today which will undo the pain’ caused by the scandal. 

But she said that ‘on behalf of this and successive governments, I am truly sorry for the actions that spanned decades and I’m sorry that people’s trust has been betrayed’.

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said the review showed there needed to be a ‘root and branch overhaul’ of the way the Home Office operates.

‘The review into the lessons of Windrush and some genuine contrition from the government are long overdue,’ she said. 

‘The verdict that there are elements of institutional racism at the Home Office is damning, and means there must be a root and branch overhaul and change of culture. 

‘But there must also be an end to the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, or there will never be an end to new cases in this scandal.’

The publication of the report comes after it was claimed in February that the final draft had been altered to remove a conclusion that the Home Office is ‘institutionally racist’. 

Ms Williams said in the report published today that she was ‘unable to make a definitive finding of institutional racism within the department’. 

However, she expressed ‘serious concerns’ that Home Office failings did demonstrate ‘institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation within the department’. 

She said that was ‘consistent with some elements of the definition of institutional racism’. 

Ms Williams also suggested that the seeds for the Windrush scandal had been planted over a period of decades. 

She concluded: ‘Despite the scandal taking the Home Office by surprise my report sets out that what happened to those affected by the Windrush scandal was foreseeable and avoidable. 

‘The causes of the Windrush scandal can be traced back through successive rounds of policy and legislation about immigration and nationality from the 1960s onwards, the aim of which was to restrict the eligibility of certain groups to live in the UK.’

Ms Williams said ‘a range of warning signs from inside and outside the Home Offce were simply not heeded by officials and ministers’ and the department was ‘slow to react’.  

The review was commissioned in 2018 after Caribbean migrants were detained or deported despite having the right to remain in Britain.

Amber Rudd, pictured in Downing Street in February 2019, resigned as Home Secretary in April 2018 in the wake of the Windrush scandal

The report was expected to be published at the end of March last year but has been repeatedly delayed. 

The fallout from the Windrush scandal led to the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd in April 2018.

The government faced intense criticism over the ‘hostile environment’ policy championed by then Prime Minister Theresa May.

The term ‘institutional racism’ was famously used in February 1999 to describe Scotland Yard and its response to the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The official review, by Sir William Macpherson, defined the term as ‘discriminating through unwitting prejudice, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping’.  

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