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National Audit Office slates Home Office handling of Windrush scandal


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Blanket media coverage today of the highly respected National Audit Office’s report into the Home Office’s Handling of the Windrush situation. “Situation” is one of those Whitehall irregular verbs: I have an issue, you have a situation, they have a scandal.

Lawyers may also quibble with the NAO’s use of the phrase “duty of care”, in which the Home Office is said to have failed in respect of Windrush victims. In strict legal terms this may be a little suspect but the point is clear: the Home Office was warned that the hostile environment policy of constant immigration checks would ensnare legal migrants without papers, like the Windrush generation, but it didn’t do anything to help them. In NAO-speak, the Home Office did not “adequately prioritis[e] the protection of those who suffered distress and damage through being wrongly penalised” and warnings of what was happening “did not have the effect of stimulating inquiry, or timely action”.

The key findings are as follows:

The Department has not yet established the full extent of the problems affecting people of the Windrush generation.

The Department decided to narrowly focus its historical reviews on individuals from the Caribbean.

The Department’s impact assessments did not analyse sufficiently the risk that compliant environment policies might have unintended or unfair consequences.

Some of the Department’s processes contributed to the risk of wrongful detentions and removals.

UK Visas and Immigration’s quality assurance systems are not focused on outcomes or the impact of decisions [see previous Free Movement posts ad nauseam]

The Department has had targets for removing illegal migrants since 2004, but there is insufficient information to conclude on whether this contributed to the Windrush situation.

Issues with the Department’s data management increased the risk of action being taken against people who had a legal right to be in the UK.

The Department did not act on credible information about issues that may have contributed to the Windrush situation.

The Department has established a dedicated team to respond to people who may have been affected.

The Department is setting up a compensation scheme, the cost of which is still being established, and this might result in a large range of financial liabilities.

Typical of the Home Office attitude to Windrush victims is the fact that, when the immigration inspector warned that driving licences were being incorrectly revoked, officials briefed ministers on how to handle questions about the issue from the media but didn’t actually do anything about it. (paragraph 3.22).

We also learned that the pause on hostile environment data sharing is still in place with no information yet on when it will resume (paragraph 3.19).

Not taken with my summary? Try this NAO video.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.