The inquiry into Home Office’s handling to the Windrush scandal is to be overseen by the only black inspector of police, fire, and rescue services, Sajid Javid has announced.
Wendy Williams, who joined the police watchdog in 2015, will conduct a lessons-learned review on the fiasco which saw Commonwealth citizens with the right to live and work in the UK threatened with deportation – and in some cases actually deported – as part of an immigration crackdown begun when Theresa May was home secretary.
The scandal, which primarily affected members of the Windrush generation who came from the West Indies to the UK to live and work between the late 1940s and early 1970s, led to Javid's predecessor Amber Rudd losing her job in April.Copy
Rudd had denied the existence of deportation targets to MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee but was subsequently revealed to have boasted to May in a letter that described “ambitious but deliverable” targets for enforced deportations.
Williams' appointment to lead the inquiry was announced yesterday and timed to coincide with today’s 70th anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks. The boat – which gives the Windrush generation its name – was one of the first vessels to bring migrant workers to the UK from the West Indies in the postwar years.
Javid said that Williams’ background as a solicitor and crown prosecutor would provide a degree of rigour to the review.
“I am delighted that Wendy will be overseeing the lessons learned review, which is vital to ensuring this never happens again to any group of people,” he said.
“She has a wealth of experience and I am confident that she will bring integrity to the review and give it the external scrutiny it requires.
“The contribution that the Windrush generation have made to this country is invaluable and I am committed to putting things right.”
Javid said the Home Office’s dedicated Windrush taskforce had now provided documentation that would allow more than 2,000 people to prove their right to live in the UK and that 285 people had so far been granted citizenship under fast-track measures introduced in the new Windrush Scheme.
One of the issues in the Windrush scandal was the Home Office’s decision to destroy landing cards that were in many cases the only documentary proof of people’s entitlement to remain in the UK.
Today, Theresa May announced the establishment of a Windrush Commemoration Committee, to be chaired by television-presenter turned Liberal Democrat peer Floella Benjamin, which will look at the best way to create a permanent tribute to the Windrush generation and their descendants.
The prime minister said options under consideration by the “cross-party and community-led group” could include a museum, a naming ceremony, or a statue.
“Many aspects of British society today would be simply unrecognisable without the contributions of the Windrush generation, from our health and transport services to our politics, businesses, literature and culture,” she said.
“The work of the Windrush Commemoration Committee will ensure that the legacy of Caribbean migrants who arrived here 70 years ago to help rebuild our country and build their lives here, will never be forgotten.”
May said the committee would be a supported by a secretariat and funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.