Britain apologises for Windrush immigration scandal after damning report

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel leaves 10 Downing Street in central London, on March 17, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - The British government apologised on Thursday (March 19) for its treatment of Britons of Caribbean origin who were wrongly detained or deported for being illegal immigrants, after the publication of a devastating official report.

The inquiry found that successive governments trying to show they were tough on illegal immigration displayed a "complete disregard" for the "Windrush" generation who moved to Britain legally in the 1950s and 1960s.

Their status was regularised in 1971 but few were given any official documentation, nor were records kept.

As a result, hundreds and potentially thousands were caught up in successive immigration clampdowns, with 164 people who arrived in Britain before 1973 either detained or deported since 2002.

The inquiry found the Home Office interior ministry had shown "an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history" of those involved.

It said the scandal, which broke in 2018 and prompted the resignation of the home secretary, was "forseeable and avoidable".

Officials also failed to properly consider the unintended consequences of their policies - and when the scandal broke, they were slow to react.

In response, current Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was "shocked" by the "terrible injustices" involved.

"There is nothing that I can say today which will undo the pain, the suffering and the misery inflicted on the Windrush generation," she said in a statement to Parliament.

"What I can do, is say that on behalf of this and successive governments - I am truly sorry for the actions that spanned decades.

"I am sorry that people's trust has been betrayed.

"And we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the Home Office protects, supports and listens to every single part of the community it serves."

The government has already set up a compensation scheme worth around £200 million (S$338 million).

More than 11,700 people have also been granted a form of documentation that confirms their right to remain in Britain, Ms Patel said.

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