The Home Office is expecting to pay out £200m to victims of the Windrush scandal, home secretary Sajid Javid has said.
Launching the long-anticipated Windrush compensation scheme today, Javid said there was “no cap”, but explained that the Home Office had made a “baseline estimate” that it would pay out around £200m.
"No-one knows what the eventual cost will be, it will be based on the needs and the claims that are actually made by the eligible people,” he told the House of Commons.
An impact assessment published on the Home Office website said there was “significant uncertainty” over the maximum cost of the scheme. It gave a “high” cost estimate of £587m and said the department's planning assumptions had been based on there being 15,000 eligible claimants.
The scheme is designed to compensate people of the Windrush generation who had the right to live in the UK but were not able to prove their legal status under the beefed-up immigration-enforcement regime introduced during Theresa May's tenure as home secretary from 2010 to 2016.
At least 83 Windrush victims are believed to have been wrongly deported from the UK as a result of the “hostile environment” policy – later rebranded the “compliant environment” policy. Many more were wrongly detained, denied access to public services, or threatened with deportation.
Applications for compensation are open to Commonwealth citizens who settled in the UK before 1973, as well as to their children and grandchildren in some cases. It is also open to people of any nationality with a right to remain in the UK, settled status or British citizenship who arrived in the UK before the end of 1988.
Additionally, the Home Office said it would accept applications from close family members of people who were affected by the scandal in cases where the actual victims have now have died.
Announcing the scheme, Javid said it was a “matter of profound regret to myself, to my department, to the government” that people who had a legal right to be in the UK were told otherwise.
Javid said one of his first acts on becoming home secretary last year was to apologise to Windrush victims and promise to “right the wrongs that had been done to them”.
“I sincerely hope that this compensation scheme being unveiled today goes some way to doing that,” he said.
Javid added that it had taken “longer than [he] would have liked” to get the compensation scheme up and running.
'Underlying structural causes'
Earlier this week, cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill admitted there were “underlying structural causes” that explained why the Home Office had for many years failed to identify that people from the Windrush generation were at risk of deportation through the government's tougher stance on immigration enforcement.
Sedwill, who was permanent secretary at the Home Office from 2013 to 2017, told parliament’s Public Accounts Committee that his former department had lacked the analytical capability to determine that the legislation could harm people who “were not designed to be targeted”.
“Checks and balances did not reveal the problem,” he said.
“There was a huge amount of work done on that legislation [the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts]: impact assessments, stakeholder meetings, panels chaired by ministers, enormous amounts of written evidence; but those impact assessments were largely focused on the groups that either were the target of that legislation or the partners who were expected to help implement it.”
Problems at the Home Office were then compounded by the “sheer complexity and volume in the immigration system”, which was “one of the most complex in the world”, Sedwill told the committee.