U.K. Broke its Own Equality Law in Treatment of Black Migrants

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The U.K. government’s immigration policies broke its own equality laws and led to Black residents with the right to live in the U.K. being deprived of welfare benefits and even deported, a public watchdog found.

The Home Office, in charge of domestic affairs in the U.K., repeatedly ignored equality risks as it pushed through a tougher immigration regime, according to a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. There was a particular weakness in reviewing the impact of policies on the so-called Windrush generation until it was too late, it said.

The Windrush generation refers to over half a million people from the British Commonwealth who arrived in the U.K. in the decades following the Second World War. In 2018, it emerged that hundreds of these migrants, mostly of Black Caribbean heritage, had been denied access to public services such as healthcare. Some were even sent to places with which they had no meaningful ties.

U.K. immigration and deportation policy has come under increased scrutiny since their mistreatment came to light. The report published on Wednesday links the scandal directly to the “hostile environment” immigration policy, which was introduced in 2012 by former prime minister and then head of the Home Office Theresa May and intended to discourage people with irregular migration status from living in Britain.

“The treatment of the Windrush generation as a result of hostile environment policies was a shameful stain on British history,” said Caroline Waters, interim chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. “It is unacceptable that equality legislation, designed to prevent an unfair or disproportionate impact on people from ethnic minorities and other groups, was effectively ignored in the creation and delivery of policies that had such profound implications for so many people’s lives.”

Earlier this year, a separate independent report found that what happened to members of the Windrush generation was “foreseeable and avoidable,” and that the Home Office had demonstrated “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race.”

The Home Office has committed to working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure such events don’t happen again. A proposed Home Office plan will be shared with the commission by the end of January 2021.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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