Patrick Vernon OBE launches a new petition to demand that compensation for victims of the Windrush scandal be fair and without caps
In early 2018 a public scandal erupted when it came to light that individuals who had migrated as minors to the UK from the Commonwealth and as part of the Windrush Generation were being forcibly deported as part of the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ for migrants.
I launched a petition in April which was signed by 180,000 people, it demanded that “the government to stop all deportations, change the burden of proof and establish an amnesty for anyone who was a minor.” This caught media attention and contributed to lobbying and campaigning by the migrant sector, grass roots organisations, politicians, faith leaders, trade unionists, celebrities, politicians and the general public that helped to drive action.
Six months on there is some progress, with a taskforce trying to fast track citizenship claims, a lessons learnt review, two consultations on a Windrush compensation scheme, numerous apologies and admissions from the Prime Minister and other government ministers, and the adoption of a national Windrush Day with funding.
However, even as the government works towards rolling back its persecution of this group, the Tories still plan to introduce a cap on all compensation claims despite the fact they did not recognise or consider any interim or hardship fund.
The Home Office has said that both minimum and maximum claims could be set to reduce administration costs and prevent what it calls ‘disportionately high’ payments to individuals. This is in spite of the fact that many were forced out of work, unable to claim welfare and even detained.
The Windrush Generation and their descendants plus others from the Commonwealth have paid taxes and contributed to the wealth, prosperity and cultural identity of this country since World War Two. It is only fair and proper that the government should have a compensation scheme which recognises and values all emotional and monetary loss and its impact on family life on a case by case basis which any civil court will consider commensurate to the suffering and treatment by the government in denying their rights as British citizens.
The introduction of cap or partial compensation scheme questions the value, merit and transparency of the government apologies and undermines commitment to resolve this issue. It shows a refusal to acknowledge the affected individuals and families have been traumatised as result of the scandal and the ongoing hostile environment.
It is clear that a number of the victims of the Windrush scandal are worried that the government has no intention to meet the principles of restorative justice recognised by UK and international law. Sadly Theresa May and Sajid Javid instead want to create a compensation scheme which will not reflect the emotional and financial loss caused by the hostile environment, and that will further undermine the value and contribution of British people of Caribbean heritage.
For this reason I have launched a new petition, with which I hope all parliamentarians across political parties will advocate for the Windrush generation and their children to get the compensation scheme they deserve. If the government cannot get this right we will see legal action in the courts which will cause unnecessary monetary cost and emotional trauma to the victims.
Patrick Vernon OBE is a campaigner, Editor of Black History Month Magazine and 70th anniversary Commemorative Windrush Magazine.
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