While the government’s Windrush Lessons Learned review is welcome in that it raises issues regarding historic immigration policy, it tragically pulls its punches with regards to current policy.

Throughout the authors fail to correctly name the problem as racism. They blame “profound institutional failure” instead of “institutional racism”. They describe the Commonwealth Immigration Acts of the 1960s, 70s and 80s as having “racial” rather than “racist” motivations. Failings are written off as “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness” or “operational and organisational”, as if simple reform of institutions would be sufficient.

We contend that the Windrush scandal goes much further than this.

Although rooted in past immigration laws, the scandal is a result of immigration policies of recent years. For 10 years British political parties have competed with each other in a numbers game to gain electoral popularity. The Windrush generation became pawns in this game and the result was Theresa May’s “really hostile environment” – as described in 2012 and brought into law in the 2014 Immigration Act. 

This “really hostile environment” involved a conscious effort to label increasing numbers of people as “illegal” – lacking official documentation – and resulted in large numbers of people facing deportation. This institutional targeting of people of Caribbean ancestry – for that’s what it amounted to – cannot be described as an “operational and organisational failing of the Home Office” as the report tries to claim. This was a direct effect of Tory legislation, not from the 1960s but from 2014.

Few of those from the Windrush generation have received any compensation. Labour must act to ensure they do and never again allow such a scandal to happen. And with only 6 Labour MPs voting against the 2014 Immigration Act, increasing black representation in our own party will be a crucial first step. 


BAME NCG members

21 March 2020