Government dropping Windrush review recommendations was unlawful, High Court rules

19 June 2024, 12:12 | Updated: 19 June 2024, 14:45

The government's decision to drop recommendations made following the Windrush review was unlawful, the High Court has ruled.

Windrush victim Trevor Donald, 68, brought legal action against the Home Office after the government decided not to proceed with all the recommendations made by an independent review into the scandal.

Lawyer Wendy Williams published the Windrush Lessons Learned Review in 2020, with all 30 recommendations initially accepted by then home secretary Priti Patel.

The Windrush scandal refers to British citizens, who mostly arrived from the Caribbean on HMT Empire Windrush, who were wrongly detained, deported or threatened with deportation despite having the right to live in the UK.

It erupted in 2018, with campaigners since saying it should be known as the Home Office scandal.

Many of them lost jobs and homes, and were denied healthcare and benefits access.

In January 2023, then home secretary Suella Braverman, dropped three of the 30 recommendations originally accepted by her predecessor.

The recommendations were: to hold reconciliation events; increase the powers of the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration (ICIBI); and a commitment to establish a migrants' commissioner.

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On Wednesday, Mrs Justice Heather Williams ruled dropping two of the recommendations - the migrants commissioner role and the ICIBI - had a "disproportionately prejudicial effect upon Windrush victims" and indirectly discriminated against them.

She also said it was unlawful and "conspicuously unfair" for the ICIBI recommendation to be dropped without consulting the Windrush community and Ms Williams.

The judge added: "I conclude that an inference can be drawn from the evidence before the court that the decision not to proceed... was a matter of considerable concern and hurt to a significant number of Windrush victims, given, in particular, that a cause of the scandal was a failure to listen to the voices of those from the Windrush community."

Mr Donald, who was born in Jamaica in 1955, lived in the UK for 43 years after arriving in 1967.

Upon returning to the UK after a visit to Jamaica in 2010, he was refused entry - which is when he became a Windrush victim, his lawyers said.

He was eventually allowed to re-enter the UK after the scandal emerged in 2018 and was given indefinite leave to remain before being granted British citizenship in January 2022.

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The judge said Mr Donald "missed critical moments in the lives of his children and lost his council flat and most of his possessions".

A further hearing is now expected to consider any damages due to Mr Donald.

The chief executive of the Black Equity Organisation (BEO), Timi Okuwa, said after the ruling: "With Windrush Day on Saturday, we remember and stand with all Windrush scandal victims, survivors and their descendants.

"Therefore, BEO welcomes today's decision that confirms that Suella Braverman's decision to drop these recommendations was unlawful.

"We are especially pleased that Mrs Justice Williams recognised the discrimination of the Windrush generation in her judgment.

"We are committed to working with the next government to ensure that all the Williams Report recommendations are fully implemented. The work isn't done.

"We will continue to hold public institutions to account to ensure that institutional racism is eradicated from our society."

Following the ruling, Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: "The hostile environment had devastating consequences for those affected by the Windrush scandal.

"Rather than learning the lessons, the government's response has been dire.

"No government is above the law.

"Thankfully the then home secretary's been caught bang to rights.

"Ministers must treat all people with dignity and respect, and act with integrity.

"The hope is the next government will act quickly to make amends to this disgraceful chapter in our history."