Windrush generation peers attack 'incompetent' Home Office


Baroness BenjaminImage copyright
House of Lords

Two peers who came from to the UK from Commonwealth countries have condemned the current treatment of the Windrush generation as “distressing”.

Lib Dem and former children’s TV presenter Baroness Benjamin said she was lucky not to be among those now asked to prove their status.

Labour’s Lord Boateng accused the Home Office of adding injury to the insult of previous generations’ racism.

A government spokesman said he understood their concerns.

Baroness Benjamin described the situation faced by people who came to the UK as children and now being asked for proof was “distressing, inconsiderate and heartless”.

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She told the House: “I came to this country in 1960 as a British citizen, a Windrush generation child, who was told I was part of the motherland, I would be welcomed.

“Luckily I had my own passport as I travelled without my parents, otherwise I too would be having to prove my status.”

She said those without passports have been subject to “unbelievable incompetence and lack of compassion – they are being treated as criminals”.

She asked “who amongst us can provide their school reports and payslips from 50 years ago?” and added that it has created “a feeling of resentment, rejection and mistrust”.

Image copyright
House of Lords

Labour’s Lord Boateng, who was born in London but returned to the UK from Ghana in the 1960s, observed that Commonwealth citizens have “lived their life in this country, paid their taxes, helped this country grow and develop into the successful multi-racial society it is today”.

“They have been insulted, they were insulted as children, my generation was described as ‘wide-eyed grinning piccaninnies’ by an MP [Enoch Powell] and to that insult has been added this injury in their old age.”

He said “what we want is not warm words” but compensation for those whose jobs have been affected and no more deportations.

Former home secretary Lord Howard of Lympne said it was a “lamentable state of affairs” which he has followed “with concern and bewilderment”.

Responding on behalf of the government, the Earl of Courtown pointed to the home secretary’s promise that there will be no removals or detentions, and went further than her in describing what had happened as a “shameful exercise”.

He said the government’s priority was to “build up a picture… to enable those individuals to be here” but immigration officials are seeking National Insurance numbers, not school reports, as Baroness Benjamin had suggested.



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