UK Home Secretary Priti Patel on Monday launched a new cross-government review panel to address issues faced by the country's immigrant communities to mark the National Windrush Day, observed in honour of migrants brought to Britain to address labour shortages in the wake of World War II.
The UK government had set up an annual commemorative day and a compensation scheme in the wake of a scandal that emerged in April 2018 over thousands belonging to the so-called Windrush generation being wrongly told they were in Britain illegally.
Patel, who has previously formerly apologised for the scandal in Parliament, has now set up a new Windrush Cross-Government Working Group to address the challenges faced by the Windrush generation and their descendants.
"This group is crucial to delivering on our promise to right the wrongs experienced by the Windrush generation and it is right that we advance these issues in a constructive, sensitive and responsible way," said the Indian-origin Cabinet minister.
"We know that the best way to make sure we reach all those affected is by listening to them and hearing their voices, including how best to address the wider challenges that disproportionately affect those from BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] backgrounds," said Patel.
"What we need most now is action and I am excited to work in partnership with this group who themselves hold valuable experience within the community and are driven to bring the ultimate change that we all want to achieve, which is making a difference to people's lives," she added.
The Windrush generation refers to citizens of former British colonies who arrived in the UK before 1973, when the rights of such Commonwealth citizens to live and work in Britain underwent a legal modification.
While a large proportion of them were of Jamaican/Caribbean descent who came on the ship Empire Windrush on June 22, 1948, Indian and other South Asian immigrants from that era also fall within the Windrush generation categorisation.
The UK Home Office says the new working group, to be co-chaired by Patel and Bishop Derek Webley, will bring together stakeholders and community leaders with senior representatives from a number of government departments.
The working group will meet quarterly for the duration of the Windrush Compensation Scheme, which is currently open until April 2023.
The group will complement the Race Equality Commission, which is being set up by No. 10 Downing Street after an earlier announcement by UK PM Boris Johnson, but will sit separately to this group.
The Home Office said the purpose of the new working group will be to provide strategic input into its response to the Wendy Williams led ''Lessons Learned Review'' released earlier this year; support the design and delivery of practical solutions to address the wider challenges that disproportionately affect people from black and wider BAME backgrounds, including programmes on education, work and health; and advise on the design and delivery of the Windrush Schemes Community Fund.
"This Working Group recognises that the work we''re doing can''t be done without the voices of the community, and we will work with them and the government in finding a way forward that would meet the satisfaction of the Windrush community," said co-chair Bishop Webley.
The Home Office said it will shortly launch a separate 500,000 pounds Windrush Scheme Community Fund for grassroots organisations, to help improve uptake and awareness of the schemes supporting those who were directly affected. This includes the Windrush Scheme, which has so far provided over 12,000 people - including hundreds of Indians - with documentation confirming their status. One of the first tasks for the group will be to work with stakeholders to co-design and deliver this fund.
To ensure that all those affected are reached, the Home Office said it is also launching a 750,000-pound targeted advertising campaign, using a range of channels, such as adverts and social media, to make sure those most affected around the UK are aware of the support available to them and know how to apply. Grassroots activity, including recruiting community ambassadors nationally and in priority areas to encourage and support applications among their networks, is also being undertaken.
"Black communities and wider minority ethnic communities still face injustices, and the government is dedicated to tackling this, including by launching a cross-governmental commission into racial inequality.
"The Windrush Cross-Government Working Group will also have an instrumental role to play in this work, and in ensuring we address the wider challenges that disproportionately affect people from black and wider minority ethnic backgrounds," the Home Office said.
Wendy Williams, an Inspector of Constabulary who oversees police forces, had called for an "unqualified apology" after she concluded her review into the Windrush scandal in March. She found that the Home Office had shown "ignorance and thoughtlessness" on the issue of race when some Commonwealth migrants were denied their British citizenship rights.
Patel, who had issued the apology in the House of Commons in March, has committed to respond to the review in full by the end of September and update Parliament before its summer recess at the end July.
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