A scathing new account of governmental ineptitude and malice shows why reform is long-overdue, says the journalist who broke the Windrush scandalby Amelia Gentleman / August 30, 2020 / Leave a comment
There is no evidence that the so-called “hostile environment” works even on its own terms. So Colin Yeo concludes in his excellent new book Welcome to Britain: Fixing Our Broken Immigration System. Given the amount of suffering caused by public bodies actively seeking out and making life intolerable for “illegal” (or undocumented) immigrants, under a policy that was created by David Cameron and Theresa May in 2012, this is a damning conclusion. Perhaps the time has finally come for politicians to pay attention. The publication of Yeo’s book seemed to be well timed: during the summer it appeared that ministers would finally be required to reflect on whether it is sustainable to maintain an immigration system constructed around cruelty.
Four days before lockdown began in March, I went to what was to be my last press conference for months. Westminster already felt post-apocalyptic. A dozen reporters turned up for a briefing on the Wendy Williams review into what caused the Windrush debacle that saw long-term British residents thrown out of the country on flimsy pretexts. No one shook hands, and we backed away from each other nervously. But the review itself was powerful. Williams, a senior lawyer who has latterly worked in the inspectorate of the police, was tasked by a panicking government with carrying out a “lessons learned” report at the height of the Windrush scandal in 2018.
She made 30 hard-hitting recommendations for reform of the Home Office. Number seven called for officials to undertake “a full review and evaluation” of the hostile environment, assessing whether it is “effective and proportionate… given the risks inherent in the policy.” This evaluation must be done “scrupulously,” published in a “timely” manner and—because of the racially discriminatory nature of the policy—would have to take account of equality laws. The Williams review was met with benign platitudes by Home Secretary Priti Patel, who took the opportunity to apologise again to those wrongly classified as illegal immigrants. Then the global pandemic hit and the report was conveniently buried.
The recommendations appeared to have been forgotten until Windrush Day on 22nd June. Windrush Day was established after the scandal (with a token £500,000 of annual state funding granted as part of the government’s attempt to make amends) to…