Jared Votes for Greater Transparency on Windrush Scandal

Today I voted in favour of Labour’s motion that aimed to shine a light on the role of the Home Office in the Windrush scandal. Although the motion ultimately failed, I felt I owed it to the Windrush generation to give them a voice in parliament.

First off, if any of my constituents have been affected please get in touch with the Home Office task force by calling the freephone 0800 678 192 or emailing commonwealthtaskforce@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

The treatment of the Windrush Generation has been nothing short of outrageous. The lives of thousands of British citizens have been plunged into chaos and misery: jobs have been lost; health care has been denied and benefits claims have been incorrectly stopped.

The current scandal is the product of a hostile environment policy that was adopted and the architect of this policy was the then home secretary, and now Prime Minister, Theresa May. Despite the welcome resignation of Amber Rudd on Sunday, the buck ultimately stops with the PM for the role she played.

Labour’s motion, which made use of an archaic parliamentary process known as a humble address, sought to force the Home Office to relinquish all information relating to Windrush to the Home Affairs Select Committee. Unlike other opposition debates that have taken place previously, the motion was binding and consequently, Tory MPs were subjected to a three-line whip. This is the only opposition day debate for which the Government placed a three-line whip and shows the clear contempt for which the Windrush generation are held in by this Government.

In today’s debate in Parliament, the deliberate conflation by those on the Tory benches between legal and illegal immigrants was both disgraceful and yet came as no surprise at all. Whether made through ignorance or deliberately, to draw this conclusion misses the point that those who are a part of the Windrush generation were not immigrants but rather British subjects who had citizenship from birth and the right to live here in the UK.

One of the most appalling aspects of the hostile environment policy has been the farming out of immigration checks by proxy to civil society organisations such as banks, landlords and jobcentres. Those who are here legally must constantly provide documentary evidence when they want to open a bank account, rent a flat or access health services. The aim is to deter illegal immigration but the consequences have been catastrophic and the Windrush generation are living proof of this.

In October 2013 Theresa May proudly boasted that she would "deport first and hear appeals later". The burden of proof was placed upon legal immigrants to prove why they should be allowed to remain in the UK, rather than the Home Office proving why they aren’t. Indeed, many of those caught up in the scandal have been asked to provide two, three and even four pieces of documentary evidence for every single year that they have been living in the UK.

These changes were part of the 2014 Immigration Bill and serious concerns were raised at the time regarding the implications of the bill. Labour MPs were whipped to abstain but Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell were a handful of MPs who opposed it. Their convictions have been vindicated and I especially want to praise the work of Diane Abbott – the daughter of Commonwealth immigrants herself – on this issue.

I also echo the sentiments of David Lammy, who has highlighted the inextricable link between the Windrush scandal and Britain’s colonial past. Those who make-up the Windrush generation represent just a small fraction of British subjects all over the world who are not British subjects because they came to Britain but rather because Britain came to them. They were shackled in chains, sold into slavery and mercilessly exploited for their labour. For the UK government to treat such people in this way is both callous and cruel.

Jared O'Mara