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18 Oct 2018

The Windrush scandal will continue to haunt the Tories

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02 Oct 2018
The latest revelations, that Windrush victims are being forced to sign gagging orders in exchange for less delayed compensation payments is truly shocking. But it is not surprising.

It fits entirely with this government's whole approach to the scandal. There is only one purpose to the gagging orders, which is to cover up the government's own appalling mistreatment of the Windrush victims. It is manipulative of vulnerable people who have already been harshly mistreated. It is devious and
cowardly.

On 16th July 2018 during a response to a Home Office oral question on the Windrush compensation scheme  Sajid Javid said, “no one will be asked to sign any kind of non-disclosure agreement or anything like that”. The Home Secretary thought it necessary to be very clear in his use of language and stress that “anything like” a non-disclosure agreement would not be used in Windrush cases. But the so called “confidentiality clauses” Windrush victims are being asked to sign, described in a letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee, sound very much “like”, if not exactly the same as a non-disclosure agreement.

The British public will not be hood-winked by semantics. There is a reason Parliament, like a court, places such importance on telling truth. Differences of opinion are just that, however strongly held. But if government ministers mislead, there is no possibility of the legislature holding the executive to account. And lest we forget that the Tories have already lost one Home Secretary because of this scandal.

The Windrush victims have already suffered enough. People, our own citizens have been illegally deported or held in detention. Some have been refused re-entry into this country after going abroad. Others may have been bullied into 'voluntary removal' under threat of deportation. People lost jobs and homes and had bank accounts and driver's licences denied or frozen. Lives have been destroyed and families split apart.

The previous Home Secretary Amber Rudd claims her denial of the existence of deportation targets was simply an error. Given the Home Office's fixation with deportations under her tenure this is simply not credible. This was a Home Secretary who had written to the Prime Minister boasting about the greater
number of deportations she was making. Officials were given bonuses for the number of deportations.

Of course, the ultimate source of this scandal remains the Prime Minister herself. It was Theresa May who piloted the 2014 Immigration Act through Parliament, aided and abetted by the LibDems in Coalition. The Act introduced the presumption of guilt in immigration cases and the 'hostile environment'. She brutally summed up her own policy as 'deport first, appeal later'.

Now Sajid Javid will have to face the consequences of continuing the same policy, while pretending to soften or even to end it. This scandal over gagging orders follows his own refusal to make interim hardship payments to the Windrush victims. He still doesn't know or will not say how many victims there are.

In reality, the number of victims will continue to grow while the 2014 Immigration Act and the hostile environment remain in place. Labour in government will end both.

We will stop treating our own citizens as if they have no legal right to be here. We will end the presumption of guilt, and stop turning public servants into border guards. We will increase the number of real border guards to catch the people traffickers and smugglers.

Above all, we will treat people with humanity and fairness in our immigration system. This is not the approach of this government. Sajid Javid has allowed these gagging orders to be issued on his watch. Much like his predecessor, he now has serious questions of his own to answer.

 

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