Windrush scandal continues two years on with backlog of 3,700 cases

Updated: May 4, 2020

Photo Credit: (Thomas-Katan)

Dozens of Windrush claimants have been waiting more than a year for a decision and lawyers and campaigners have expressed concern about a large backlog of unresolved cases.

The new figures from the Home Office have revealed that cases go back more than two years to when Amber Rudd was in office and later resigned as home secretary amid the scandal.

Data published by the Home Office shows there are 3,720 outstanding cases with the Windrush Taskforce, of which 151 are between six and 12 months, and further 35 remain unresolved after a year.

The department said 731 cases remain unresolved due to their complexity, while 1,683 cases have been found to be ineligible or to not qualify for the Windrush scheme – but are as yet not concluded.

Many of these decisions have triggered grave problems for the individuals’ access to employment, healthcare, housing and pensions. In extreme cases some of those affected were detained and deported.

Meanwhile, more than 12,000 people who were wrongly classified by the Home Office as illegal immigrants have now been given citizenship or some other form of documentation proving that they have – and always had – the right to live in the UK.

A total of 1,111 cases are still to be considered at all, of which the majority were awaiting the submission of biometrics by the applicant, the Home Office said.

Jacqueline McKenzie, a lawyer who has represented dozens of Windrush cases pro bono, said the backlog might be partly explained by the complexity of the cases, and the fact that individuals were often having to apply for help without the support of lawyers or immigration experts.

She said that the data was indicative of the problems people are having in applying to the scheme without professional help.

“There are still people who either don’t know about the scheme or don’t realise that it applies to them and, quite importantly, there are still people who fear that they could be subject to enforcement if they come forward.

"The stories of people detained and removed from the UK still sends both shockwaves and fear throughout the community of those affected,” Mckenzie said.

The letter, provided to the Home Affairs Select Committee, also reveals that of 142 applications for urgent and exceptional support, just 35 have been approved and as many as 89 have been refused.

The large number refused under the scheme who applied from abroad triggered concern. Overall, 13,745 people have been refused requests for citizenship or documentation proving their right to live in the UK, of whom 11,332 had applied from overseas. The Home Office said the free application process had attracted a number of “without merit or ineligible claims”.

The Home Office has also revealed that it wrongly detained or deported 164 people who were living entirely legally in the UK after emigrating from Caribbean countries. However, officials have refused to attempt to find people who were deported in error to non-Caribbean Commonwealth countries.

Further figures reveal that 24 people who were either wrongly detained or deported died before the UK government was able to contact them and apologise for the mistake. Officials are still searching for 14 people who were mistakenly deported to the Caribbean, to tell them they can return to the UK.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “A dedicated team in the Home Office is working to resolve applications as quickly as possible. It’s right that each individual case is properly considered and over 12,000 people have been provided with documentation confirming their status so far.

“We have been clear since the very beginning that no information provided as part of a Windrush scheme application will be used for immigration enforcement action.”