Last Updated on 2 October 2023 by Ann-Marie Nye
The Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly says the Home Office’s decision to disband the team dedicated to addressing the fallout from the Windrush scandal “undermines the hurt and pain caused”.
The Revd Dr Tessa Henry-Robinson spoke following the publication of the Home Office’s Annual Report and Accounts 2022-2023 which claimed the team – responsible for the department’s Windrush policy, and for implementing the recommendations in the “Windrush Lessons Learned” review – had made notable gains and so was no longer needed.
In January, Home Secretary Suella Braverman faced criticism after reneging on significant commitments made by the government in 2020 to victims of the Windrush scandal.
The promises were made in the wake of revelations that hundreds of people who came to the UK from Commonwealth countries had been wrongly detained, denied legal rights, and threatened with deportation or deported by the Home Office.
Three recommendations in the review led by Wendy Williams CBE, HM Inspector of Constabulary and HM Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services, with the aim of providing external scrutiny of the Home Office’s activities were specifically not taken forward.
“These actions are disgraceful, divisive and disrespectful,” said Dr Henry-Robinson. “The impact of the horrors of the Windrush scandal on lives, livelihoods and families will be felt for years to come.
“We mourn what is again being lost and taken away from the Windrush victims and the UK’s Caribbean community.
“This is serious for several reasons. Primarily, this appears to be a concerted effort to undermine the hurt and pain that was caused and to deprive the Windrush community of an honest, sustainable and swift resolution to the scandal.
“Sadly, this is what many people had feared would happen. The URC is rightly outraged by the dismissal of these promises and the laissez-faire manner in which it was decided and announced.
“The refusal to run reconciliation events should strike us as particularly heinous. Religious, minoritised and indigenous groups know well the importance of remembrance of the inhumanity visited upon them because of who they are, and the reconciliation that must follow for them to face their abusers and have a dialogue based on finding grace and peace. We will recall that the Truth and Reconciliation trials in South Africa helped in some way to begin to heal the pain Black South Africans experienced under apartheid and give the country back its hope.
“The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, implemented in Canada in 2007, established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to, among other things, facilitate reconciliation events about what the country’s indigenous children endured under the separation policy that operated from the 1880s until as recently as 1996.
“I am not saying that the impact on Black South Africans and the now-adults of Canada’s separation schools is no longer being felt. But those reconciliation events were about respect, responsibility and reconciling an ugly past.
“Suella Braverman’s decision has robbed the Windrush generation of this much-needed opportunity. It is cognisant of a wider bullying tactic to remind visitors to the UK of the “hostile environment” policies.
“The URC’s most urgent position in the face of the Home Secretary’s decision is to rally around its congregants, many of whom are of the Windrush generation and long-standing members of the URC, and guide them through the anger, pain and confusion that they must undoubtedly be experiencing.”
As part of the Joint Public Issues Team, in 2018 the URC launched a campaign highlighting the damaging effects of the hostile environment. Learn more about JPIT’s End Hostility campaign.
Image: Sky News.