Home Office rolls out Windrush program

1 Jun 18

UNITED KINGDOM

IMPACT – MEDIUM

The new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has launched an immigration documentation scheme designed to provide redress to the thousands of “Windrush generation” Britons and their families, following the public scandal in which they were unfairly caught up in the government’s “hostile environment” policy for illegal migrants. Javid was appointed to replace Amber Rudd, who was forced to resign having “inadvertently misled” Parliament about the Home Office’s numerical targets for deportations and unfair treatment of these British citizens and residents due to lack of specific documentation.

As of May 30, the scheme allows the Windrush generation and other long-time undocumented residents to apply for documents confirming their British citizenship free of charge. The program applies to nationals of Commonwealth countries who settled in the U.K. before 1973, their children under 18 who have been continuously present in the U.K., and individuals whose settled status lapsed because of spending more than two years outside the U.K. In addition, individuals of any nationality who arrived between 1973 and 1988 who are lawfully settled in the U.K. are eligible to apply for documentation verifying their status as U.K. permanent residents. Successful applicants will be granted a status document, although not a British passport (which must be applied for separately and at a cost). A movement to compensate those who have been turned away from work or who have been unfairly denied housing or National Health Service support has led the government to open a call for evidence which ends June 8.

Further details on the eligibility criteria and the application process are available here.

Background: The “Windrush generation” were invited to Britain between 1948 and 1971 to fill labor shortages following World War II and were named after the first boat arriving from the Caribbean. At the time, these migrants were welcomed as Commonwealth (and, therefore, British) citizens and many children traveled undocumented on their parents’ passports. While these migrants went on to play an essential role in the rebuilding of post-war Britain and form the bedrock of BME (Black and Minority Ethnicity) British society, no documentation was issued proving their legal status, and landing records that document their arrival were destroyed by the Home Office in the 2010s. Fast forward 50 years and this lack of documentation has rendered it impossible for many migrants to fulfill right-to-work and right-to-rent checks by employers and landlords or to prove that they are entitled to health services, despite many being British citizens or entitled to naturalize. Immigration rules introduced in 2012 to make the U.K. a “hostile environment” for illegal migrants, where lack of documentation means lack of access to work, housing and services, have proved directly discriminatory to the Windrush descendants.

BAL Analysis: The Windrush scandal has captured the public’s attention and highlighted many unfair aspects of the Immigration Act that were previously below the radar, and may encourage the Home Office to temper the “hostile environment” toward migrants at the policy level more generally (and certainly if proposed compensation must be paid out to those denied work, housing or benefits). While the Windrush scandal does not directly affect business immigration into the U.K., all U.K. employers should be aware of the program when conducting mandatory right-to-work checks. Employers must be aware that there are legitimate grounds on which some British citizens or permanent residents many not hold passports, and be prepared to make further referrals to the Home Office Employer Checking service and seek advice on this scheme if necessary.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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