UK must change asylum system after Windrush review exposes ‘disregard for rights’

UK must change asylum system after Windrush review exposes ‘disregard for rights’

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Campaigners have said there are ‘significant parallels’ between the UK’s Windrush scandal and LGBT+ asylum seekers today.

The Windrush scandal exposed how British officials mistreated a generation of people who came to the country, particularly from Caribbean countries.

The scandal broke in 2018 and takes its name from the ‘Windrush generation’, named in turn after the ship the Empire Windrush which brought one of the first groups of West Indian migrants to the UK in 1948.

Now the official Windrush Lessons Learned Review has just come out. It finds the UK Home Office has a culture disbelief and disregard for rights and humanity.

UKLGIG campaigns for LGBT+ migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

It says: ‘At the heart of the Windrush story was a refusal to believe people when they told their own life stories, even when backed up by extensive evidence.

The asylum and immigration system frequently assumes that applicants are telling lies, even when they have suffered so much. It is inefficient and inhumane.’

Moreover, UKLGIG executive director Leila Zadeh, adds:

‘There are significant parallels between the Windrush nightmare and the suffering of others who experience the UK asylum and immigration system. The Home Office has also refused many asylum claims from LGBTQI+ people even when they have had plenty of evidence.’

Therefore, the UKLGIG is demanding ‘an urgent overhaul of the asylum and immigration system’.

It says: ‘This must include a commitment to an asylum system that has a culture of protection at the core, and a humane immigration system that safeguards and preserves dignity.’

The Windrush Report: NGO joint statement

UKLGIG has joined 24 other organizations signing an open letter. It reads: 

‘The nation was shocked and appalled when the Windrush scandal hit the news in 2018. Rightly so, for what happened was the destruction of the lives of black Britons as a direct result of a Government policy.

‘The Windrush Lessons Learned Review puts beyond any doubt what we have said all along: that the scandal was not an isolated mistake, but the inevitable result of Home Office policies aimed at creating a Hostile Environment for people unable to easily prove their right to be in the country.

‘To this day the elements of institutional racism and policies responsible for the scandal, including the Hostile Environment, continue to tear lives apart.

‘Justice for the Windrush Generation will not be fully served until the Hostile Environment is scrapped and the attitudes which drove its creation are rooted out.

‘The review shows that the Home Office culture of disregard for people’s human rights and humanity and disbelief of their testimony and that of experts is pervasive from ministerial level down.

‘When he ordered this review, then Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that what happened with the Windrush scandal must “never again happen to any group of people”.

‘Yet still now, every day, many marginalised people, including asylum seekers, are disbelieved, dismissed, detained and even removed to places where they may not be safe.

‘Nothing can truly atone for what happened to the Windrush generation. But just as the scandal marked a turning point in public understanding of the human impact of Home Office policy, so this review must mark a turning point in government leadership on immigration, if Britain is to believe in its own capacity for humanity, decency and fairness.’

Signatories to the letter

The following organizations have co-signed the letter:

  • Asylum Matters
  • Black Cultural Archives
  • Center for Migration Advice and Research
  • Freedom from Torture
  • Helen Bamber Foundation
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
  • Jesuit Refugee Service UK
  • Liberty
  • Medical Justice
  • McKenzie Beute and Pope Immigration Practioners
  • Muslim Council of Britain
  • Peter Tatchell Foundation
  • Pastor Clive Foster, Pilgrim Church Nottingham
  • Preston Windrush Generation and Descendants UK
  • Rabbi Danny Rich
  • Refugee Action
  • Refugee Council
  • Runnymede Trust
  • Survivors Speak OUT
  • UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG)
  • Patrick Vernon
  • Welsh Refugee Council
  • Windrush Action
  • Bishop Dr Desmond Jaddoo & Charlie Williams, Windrush Movement (UK)

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Author: Tris Reid-Smith