Windrush compensation scheme to get MPs' backing

Jamaican men being welcomed by RAF officials after the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury on 22 June 1948Image source, PA
Image caption,
The Windrush generation take their name from the ship that brought the first West Indies immigrants to Britain in 1948

Legislation authorising compensation payments to victims of the Windrush scandal is set to be approved by MPs.

The Windrush Compensation Scheme Bill is expected to pass through its final Commons stages on Tuesday.

Members of the Windrush generation and their families who were wrongly told they were in Britain illegally have been promised financial redress.

A recent review found a “profound institutional failure” had turned thousands of lives upside down.

An estimated 500,000 people now living in the UK who arrived between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries have been called the Windrush generation, a reference to a ship which brought workers to the UK in 1948.

They were granted indefinite leave to remain in 1971 but thousands were children travelling on their parents' passports, without their own documents.

Changes to immigration law in 2012 meant those without documents were asked for evidence to continue working, access services or even to remain in the UK.

'Betrayal of trust'

Some were held in detention or deported, despite living in the country legally for decades, resulting in a furious backlash over their treatment.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has apologised for this “betrayal of trust” and said all those entitled to compensation will receive it.

The first payments from the scheme have been made, although legislation is necessary to authorise public expenditure relating to it.

The bill has cross-party support although Labour has been pushing for wider eligibility criteria, faster payments, and more assistance for those seeking justice.

The legislation will also need to be approved by the House of Lords before it becomes law.

Expected payments

It is unclear whether this will happen before Parliament breaks up for its Easter recess on Tuesday, amid speculation that this could be brought forward due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Compensation payments will be calculated through an assessment of the financial impact on individuals’ lives, such as loss of income and access to housing, of not being able to prove their immigration status.

The Home Office has said it will consider requests “in the round based on all the available evidence” including its own records and those of other departments.

In its impact assessment, the department said payments could total between £120m and £310m, based on the assumption that 15,000 people applied.

The Home Office has set a deadline of 2 April, 2021 for claims although there will be a sixth-month grace period after that for exceptional cases to still be considered.