The Home Office has announced a three-month pause to “pro-active data sharing” between government departments to prevent members of the Windrush generation getting caught up in policies aimed at curbing illegal immigration.
Home secretary Sajid Javid said there would be a freeze in the so-called “hostile environment” immigration policy, including a pause in data sharing between HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for Work and Pensions, DVLA and the Home Office.
Ministers have been fiercely criticised over the Windrush scandal, which saw British citizens of Caribbean descent stripped of their rights to work, denied access to public services and threatened with deportation.
Javid, in an update of Home Office work in relation to Windrush provided to Home Affairs Select Committee chair Yvette Cooper on 10 July, said: “We have paused pro-active data sharing with other government departments and delivery partners on data for all nationalities over 30 years old for a period of three months. This covers HMRC, DWP and the DVLA.”
He added that the department had “significantly restricted pro-active data sharing with banks and building societies via Cifas (the specified anti-fraud authority), to persons subject to deportation action due to criminal activity”.
These measures have been introduced to ensure that members of the Windrush generation are not “erroneously impacted by compliant environment measures”.
Home Office officials are also looking at how best to evaluate the measures, which Javid called the “compliant environment”, that aim to deter illegal immigration.
But he added that many of the checks introduced under the policy are conducted by other agencies and bodies, such as landlords doing right to rent checks and employers doing right to work checks. This means it is “not possible to say how many of the Windrush generation may have been inadvertently affected by these aspects of the compliant environment”, but the department’s historic review unit is looking into cases known to the Home Office, Javid said.
The Home Office has revealed that almost 600 people have been granted British citizenship through the fast-track Windrush settlement scheme while a further 2,000 have been provided with documents confirming their status in the country.
Cooper said that the government had failed to “make contact with the majority of those who were wrongfully deported or removed” and urged them to immediately establish a hardship fund for those who had been financially impacted by the scandal.
The move comes amid suggestions that the government could be mulling a change of its target to reduce immigration to the “tens of thousands”.
When asked earlier this week at a hearing of the Home Affairs Select Committee if the target was “a massive chain around your neck” that he wanted to “ditch”, Javid responded “next question”.