Home Office Broke Equality Law Over Windrush Scandal, EHRC Report Finds

Home Office Broke Equality Law Over Windrush Scandal, EHRC Report Finds

The Equality and Human Rights Commission recently published their assessment of how and whether the Home Office met its Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) obligations when developing, implementing and monitoring so-called ‘hostile environment’ immigration policies between 2014 and 2018, with regard to the impact on the Windrush generation. 

Here Alasdair Macdonald, Director of Policy, details their findings:

We have concluded that the Home Office failed to comply with the PSED.  We also agree with the conclusion of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review that the experiences of that group were ‘foreseeable and avoidable’.

We have made recommendations for how the Home Office should embed the PSED in its future policy and practice as an essential safeguard against the devastating experiences of the Windrush generation ever being repeated.

Findings of our assessment

We specifically found that negative equality impacts were repeatedly ignored, dismissed, or their severity disregarded at crucial points of policy development.  There was limited engagement with representatives of the Windrush generation, even as the severe effects of hostile environment policies began to emerge.

Equality impacts were often considered too late to form a meaningful part of many decision-making processes.  Exceptions to the PSED for immigration were in many cases interpreted incorrectly and/or inconsistently, and there was a lack of commitment within the Home Office to the importance of equality.

Our recommendations for change and next steps

Our recommendations are designed to build on the Windrush Lessons Learned Review.  They will help the Home Office ensure it complies with the PSED by effectively understanding and acting on equality information, and more broadly embedding the Duty in its culture and processes. 

To turn our recommendations into measurable action, the Home Office has confirmed it will enter into an agreement with us, under section 23 of the Equality Act 2006, to prepare and implement by the end of January 2021 a plan of the specific actions the department will take to avoid a future breach of the PSED in carrying out immigration functions in respect of race.  We will then monitor the delivery of this plan.

We are also writing to other government departments to make them aware of our findings and highlight the importance of compliance with the Duty.

We believe the Home Office’s commitment to implementing our recommendations will be an important contribution to the department’s aim of learning the lessons of the past and improving future policy and practice, for all groups of people.

We hope that the lessons learned from our assessment will inform better performance of the PSED across government and more widely, and will support the case for stronger PSED specific duties to support public bodies to tackle discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and promote good relations more effectively in the future.

Should you have any questions regarding the assessment, please contact windrush@equalityhumanrights.com.

Featured image: The Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex, on 22 June 1948, Getty Images