Windrush scandal victims are still facing long waits and inadequate compensation, report warns – as group demands payout scheme should be ‘stripped’ from Home Office and given to independent body

  • The scheme is meant to recompense those affected by the Windrush scandal
  • Critics say those applying face unreasonable demands to prove their status 

Victims of the Windrush scandal are still facing long waits and receiving inadequate amounts of compensation when their payout finally arrives, a new report has warned today.

Human Rights Watch says that the scheme should be ‘stripped’ from the Home Office and given to an independent body after the group’s report found that claimants are being asked to provide unreasonable levels of documentation or proof. 

The scheme was set up to recompense members of the Windrush Generation – legal immigrant workers from the Caribbean who arrived post-World War Two – who had been incorrectly classed as illegal migrants. It has come under fire from those applying for compensation, with many expressing frustration at the struggle to obtain reasonable payouts. 

The Home Office says it has paid out or offered more than £68million in compensation so far, and told the BBC that it is ‘committed to writing the wrongs of Windrush’.

The Windrush scandal saw legal migrant workers from the Caribbean who arrived in Britain after World War Two incorrectly classed as illegal immigrants. Pictured: Jamaican immigrants arrive at Tibury Docks in Essex on June 22, 1948, on former troop ship ‘Empire Windrush’. 

Thomas Tobierre, pictured, who arrived legally in Britain 1965 as a child from St Lucia, was forced to drain his pension after being unable to get a job after being made redundant because of his lack of documentation

In its report, seen by the BBC, Human Rights Watch said victims should be granted legal aid to help make their applications for the scheme, which was put in place 2019.

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The HMT Empire Windrush first docked in England 75 years ago, bringing legal immigrant workers from the Caribbean to help fill post-war labour shortages. 

Five years ago it was revealed thousands of immigrants had been incorrectly classed as illegal. 

People affected by the scandal arrived to the UK between 1948 and 1971, when immigration laws changed in the UK. 

Those who were incorrectly classed as illegal immigrants, who were also from countries outside the Caribbean, struggled to find work, housing, access healthcare and in some cases people who had lived their whole lives in the UK were deported. 

Human Rights Watch said there was an unreasonable burden of truth placed on the victims.

Thomas Toubierre, who came to the UK from St Lucia in 1965 as a small child when the island was still a British colony, said he had been forced to drain his pension after being made redundant in 2017 and was unable to take a job because of the lack of documentation.

He told the BBC ‘it’s like they’re saying you don’t exist’, and added that despite spending weeks gathering evidence he had been in the UK since the 60s.

When he applied for compensation he was told by the Home Office it didn’t cover the loss of his pension, and offered £3,000 – but this was increased to £16,000 after an appeal and formal complaint by his daughter Charlotte.

He added their family went through the process again when his wife Caroline applied as a close family member of someone affected by the scandal. 

Human rights groups have called on the Government to take responsibility for the compensation scheme away from the Home Office to an independent body. Pictured: Home Secretary Suella Braverman with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak 

Earlier this month Windrush campaigners delivered a petition to Downing Street calling on the Home Secretary to honour promises made by her predecessor Priti Patel to implement recommendations in the Williams report

At the time she had stage four terminal cancer and after being given weeks to live wanted the money to pay for her funeral – Mr Toubierre said she was forced to go through a long interview which made her ‘break down so many times’. 

One lawyer representing hundreds of Windrush victims told the BBC the scheme was ‘torturing people’ with requests for unreasonable amounts of evidence.

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Jacqueline McKenzie said: ‘A lot of this goes back decades, particularly around employment – so many of the employers, and the sorts of places they were working… they don’t exist.

The Black Equity Organisation echoed calls from Human Rights Watch, with chief executive Dr Wanda Wyporska saying the Home Office ‘must be stripped of the administration of the compensation scheme’. 

Dr Wyporska said: ‘The report confirms the worst fears of the Windrush victims and survivors, that the institutional prejudice, ignorance, carelessness and inhumanity that drove the scandal, would resurface if the Home Office were allowed to manage the compensation scheme, and sadly, that has proven to be the case. 

‘The Department has created a process that is so bureaucratic and complicated, that some Windrush victims have died before they could successfully complete it.’ 

The report also said victims do not feel they would get a fair hearing at the Home Office as it is the agency responsible for the scandal. 

‘To add insult to unimaginable injury, surviving claimants have been prevented from getting the legal aid they urgently need to help complete the process and begin to rebuild their lives,’ Dr Wyporska added. 

‘We are calling for an independent body focused on the needs of victims to be appointed and Windrush survivors must be able to access legal aid. 

‘It is unforgivable that the horrific damage done to the Windrush generation is being compounded by the gross mismanagement of the scheme created to help them.’ 

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