THE GUARDIAN 🔵 Speed up Windrush compensation payments, say victims and campaigners – Shango Media

THE GUARDIAN 🔵 Speed up Windrush compensation payments, say victims and campaigners

Compensation payments for people affected by the Windrush scandal should be speeded up and increased, victims and campaigners have said.

The Windrush compensation scheme was launched by the Home Office five years ago this week after widespread outrage over the scandal, in which thousands of British people were wrongly classed as illegal immigrants. Many were wrongfully deported and denied access to healthcare, housing and employment.

Just over £80m had been paid out across 2,233 claims by the end of January this year, according to data from the Home Office. However, there are concerns that many elderly victims may miss out on compensation due to payment delays.

Jacqueline McKenzie, a partner and head of immigration and asylum law at the firm Leigh Day, has worked with more than 400 Windrush victims since 2018 and said the Home Office “must speed up the decision-making” process.

She said: “These experiences and delays are retraumatising an already vulnerable and elderly cohort of which hundreds have already died.”

Anjali*, the daughter of a Windrush victim, said she felt “sad and gutted” that her father’s compensation was issued a year after he died and four years after he had been granted indefinite leave to remain by the Home Office.

Anjali’s father, Singh*, was born in Kenya and moved to the UK at the age of 13 in August 1971. Singh, who worked in construction, experienced homelessness and was threatened with deportation because he was unable to prove his immigration status in the UK.

She said: “He wanted to enjoy himself and just get his actual passport made and travel the world … The compensation has come through, even though I got it as a daughter, but I feel like he did not manage to do what he wanted to do.”

She called for compensation to be issued more quickly for victims and said her father’s experiences had “traumatised him”.

“Just imagine you’ve got nowhere to go. No one’s listening to you. You’re getting treated like you’re nothing in a country you have contributed towards and it’s like the government is not listening to you at all,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking, they made him suffer, they made him struggle and then he couldn’t see his money … His health got so terrible because maybe of living on the streets … The impact on his health … Like, the government literally killed him.”

The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases, but clarified that the Windrush compensation scheme would remain open as long as it is needed so that no one was prevented from making a claim.

McKenzie said there had been “some improvements” to the compensation scheme during its five years, but more could be done, including better training to understand the impact that the loss of immigration status has had on victims.

Derick Bhupsingh, a Windrush victim of the scandal who was granted indefinite leave to remain in 2019, said he was initially offered £4,000 in compensation from the Home Office, which he refused.

He said: “I would concede that the government did increase the offers for people, which is good. That’s great, but it’s still nothing near … what is being given to the [victims of the] Post Office and other scandals.”

Bhupsingh spent almost 40 years in Trinidad and Tobago after he was prevented from re-entering the UK in 1979. The 65-year-old, who arrived in the UK at the age of five with his mother, remembered feeling “astonished” when he was told he could not return to the UK after he visited family in Trinidad and Tobago.

He said: “I was blown away … I still have that feeling inside of me because that was the only life I knew, living here in London, and all of a sudden it had been stripped away from me.”

Glenda Caesar, who was denied the right to work for nearly a decade, called for a public inquiry into the scandal.

Caesar, a director at the Windrush National Organisation, said: “The government needs to bring the Windrush compensation scandal payments up to the same level as the Post Office. I have this feeling that because it’s affected people of colour – that’s my judgment – that they just disregarded us.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government is committed to righting the wrongs of the Windrush scandal and making sure those affected receive the compensation they rightly deserve.

“We have paid more than £80m in compensation and over 82% of claims have received a final decision. We continue to make improvements so people receive the maximum award as quickly as possible, while providing extensive support to help people access and apply to the compensation scheme.”

*Names have been changed

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