UK to compensate Windrush victims

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, April 04, 2019

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THE United Kingdom (UK) yesterday launched a scheme to compensate members of the so-called Windrush generation as it seeks to make amends for the 2018 scandal concerning people who were detained, denied legal rights, deported or threatened with deportation, by its Home Office.

The compensation process aims to help redress the impact on persons who have experienced difficulties, some extreme, in proving their lawful status under the UK's immigration system.

Among them were thousands of Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals who, despite living and working in the UK for the majority of their lives, were affected.

Britain said the scheme was designed in consultation with those affected as part of its commitment to righting the wrongs experienced by such individuals.

At a press conference at the British High Commission in Kingston yesterday, High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad explained that the claim process will be open for two years, and that two generations of individuals will be eligible to make claims.

He said the current ballpark figure for the scheme of 200 million pounds is not exhaustive, as it is only a calculation of what it is likely to cost.

“The claim process will be open for two years, so it's not something that we are going to be announcing today and then the window is shut within a few weeks. Over the next 24 months people can read and digest the rules, they can put forward their claims and then it will be processed. What is unique about this compensation scheme is that it will be based on eligibility, but also it's not budget limited,” he explained.

The compensation mechanism is open to anyone of any nationality who has the right to live or work in the UK without restrictions, or is now a British citizen, and arrived in the UK before December 31, 1988. It is also open to anyone from a Commonwealth country who arrived and settled in the UK before 1973, and certain children and grandchildren of those arriving before 1973. Some close family members may also be eligible to apply.

“People who would have rightfully been direct heirs of somebody who is deceased, an application can be launched on their behalf, but the impact goes beyond the immediate victims, more broadly, the people who are likely to be financially compensated if they can prove that they are eligible would be the children of the original Windrush generation as well as their grandchildren,” Ahmad said.

Furthermore, he emphasised that the definition of family is being loosely applied because the UK Government recognises the traditions in Jamaica, and other countries of the world, where family could be any relative.

“Direct lineage is not going to be the only feature (once) you can prove there has been a strong family bond, and a strong loss as a result of this,” he noted.

Just more than 500,000 Commonwealth-born people residing in the UK, including thousands of Jamaicans, could be in line to receive compensation.

The high commissioner said special arrangements have been made not just for individuals still residing in the UK, but those outside of the territory, and urged individuals in Jamaica, the rest of the Caribbean and other countries who want to make claims to contact the Home Office via e-mail at: windrushcompensationscheme @homeoffice.gov.uk.

Ahmad said once an e-mail is received, the UK authorities will then make contact with the individuals.

High Commissioner Ahmad said the British Government, with the help of the Jamaican authorities, has in fact already tracked down a large number of Jamaicans. Of the 12,000 worldwide who used the Windrush task force hotline, 60 per cent were from Jamaica, he noted.

A formal written apology will be issued by the UK Government to each person affected, acknowledging that what it did was wrong.

The British high commissioner said the UK Government is being completely transparent in its application of the compensation scheme, and that eligible individuals will be entitled to all the benefits outlined.

Claim can be for: loss of access to services such as education and health care; denial of access to employment and or benefits; detention, deportation or removal; impact on normal daily life and on mental and physical health; and refund of fees for certain refused immigration applications. Close family members can also claim in specified categories if they suffered a direct loss.


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