A city based campaign group is taking legal action against the Home Secretary claiming the human rights of the Windrush generation and their descendants continue to be ignored.
Preston Windrush Generation and Descendants UK say it is a "new scandal" and claim Home Secretary Priti Patel has displayed "a continued failure to right a historic injustice" over citizenship rights.
Now the group and its supporters have applied for a judicial review of what they say is the politician's refusal to amend a law which has deprived people of their British citizenship, despite them having lived most of their lives in the U.K.
They are also calling for a minimum £10,000 reparation payment, pointing out people have often been left in limbo while they wait to have their cases considered.
A gofundme appeal has been set up to help meet legal and other costs.*
The group's hope is that the review will make clear the need for a change in the law regarding such citizenship rights.
More than 30 people, including several Preston city councillors, have added their support to the call for action.
Spokesman Anthony Brown, chair of Preston Windrush Generation and Descendants UK and co-founder of the Windrush Defenders Legal C.I.C.(community interest company) said: "The Home Office is meant to be restoring people's citizenship through the Windrush Scheme and compensating them but there are great delays and not many are coming forward.
"Each year the Home Office charters a plane to deport Jamaicans. This deters people from coming forward. My request would restore citizenship to thousands at a stroke and end them being in limbo."
The Judicial Review application follows the failure of the Home Secretary to respond to a letter sent to her by Anthony on December 23.
The letter, known as a Pre Action Protocol letter, asks for actions to be taken regarding citizenship and for reparation payments of at least £10,000 for those affected.
The letter to Priti Patel calling for these changes said: " All people who were born as either British subjects prior to 1948 or as Citizens of the UK and Colonies post-1948 and who had been settled in the UK for a period of five years by 1 January 1983, should, for the purposes of the Immigration Act 1971 and the British Nationality Act 1981, be treated as having continued to be citizens of the UK and colonies throughout this period irrespective of the impact of any independence legislation passed in relation to their countries of origin."
Calling for a reparation payment (which would be separate from compensation payments) the group had noted: "An additional payment should be made on top of any compensation to everyone that successfully applies to the Windrush Scheme from the Caribbean who came before 1 January 1973 of £10,000 automatically as a symbolic payment of reparation for the harm cited in recommendation(1) of the Wendy Williams Windrush Lessons Learned Review."
When no reply was received from the minister by January 6 an application was made to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service for the judicial review.
Anthony said: "‘You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to us that all our long struggle to end the ‘hostile environment’ against the Windrush Generation has failed. ...The Home Office is still enforcing the law because the laws have not changed. People are still losing their jobs or are unable to take up work or rent a house, etc. if they don't have legal documents, which many from the Windrush Generation don’t."
He continued: "People lost their citizenship by operation of law back in the 60s and 70s. This made them subject to Immigration law. It was the immigration Act 1971, that impacted me ,which has a clause that you will lose your right to reside in the UK if you have lived abroad for more than two years. The Immigration Act 2014 says unless you have documents to prove you have the right to live in the UK you will lose your job, access to the NHS, be unable to rent a house, you can be deported and put in detention."
The group issued a statement last week noting: "The wrong done to the Windrush Generation by changes to the law since the 1960s up to 2014 still continues to have grave impact. Also, delays in restoring citizenship, delays in compensation for lost employment, being put in detention, being deported, refused re-entry to the UK and denied access to the NHS is a new scandal."
It added: "The aim of the Judicial Review will be to challenge the Home Secretary’s refusal to restore citizenship to those Windrush migrants whose statuses were removed by operation of law. We believe that the litigation will have the effect, at least, of clarifying the measures that Parliament should take to put right the wrongs done to the Windrush generation through the revocation of their citizenship and to compensate them for that loss."
Glenda Andrew, a Windrush Community Ambassador and co-founder of the Preston Windrush Generation and Descendants UK urged anyone from the Windrush community with concerns over their citizenship to contact herself or Anthony via the group's email [email protected]
The description Windrush generation has been applied to those arriving in the UK from 1948-71 from Caribbean countries. In 1948 the first Caribbean immigrants arrived to help with the post-war labour shortages in Britain aboard the ship MV Empire Windrush.
In 2018 the Government admitted an uknown number of migrants arriving in the 1940s and 50s had been unfairly treated, with some wrongly detained, denied legal rights and some deported.The uncertainty over citizenship has affected their descendants too. The UK government apologised for deportation threats made to Commonwealth citizens' children, many who had lived and worked in the UK for decades. A compensation scheme has been introduced (see below).
In December a rise in compensation levels was announced by Priti Patel. Writing in The Times, she and Bishop Derek Weble, co-chairs of the Windrush cross-government working group said that, having listened to complaints about the scheme across the country, including dozens from Lancashire, they recognised it was “crucial that we go further and faster to help those who need it”.**
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have taken action to ensure to help those who suffered terrible injustices. Under the Windrush Scheme, we have provided over 13,300 documents to over 11,500 of the Windrush generation free of charge, confirming their status or British citizenship. We have also overhauled the Windrush Compensation Scheme so people are receiving significantly more money, more quickly, enabling more victims to have the confidence to come forward with their claim.”
Last September The Home Secretary published its Response to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review: a comprehensive improvement plan.'
* The gofundme website is at: gofundme.com/f/windrushcitizenship
The Preston Windrush Generation and Descendants UK group's website is: www.prestonwindrush.co.uk
** The Windrush Compensation Scheme was set up in April 2019. In December the Government announced it was changing the scheme and raising compensation levels. The minimum award of £250 was raised to £10,000 for anyone who can show an impact on their life under the terms of the scheme and the maximum from £10,000 to £100,000, (higher in exceptional cases). The Government pledged to fast track a new early payment scheme with a minimum £10,000 payment. The first preliminary payment was made within a week and the Home Office said several revised offers of payment have been sent out, with total offers increased to nearly £200,000 in some cases.
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