Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: Lessons Learned?

Editorial: Lessons Learned?


 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Editorial: Lessons Learned?

The recent announcement  that the government will accept all 30 of the recommendations from the Windrush Lessons Learned Review was a refreshing sign of a willingness to listen at the top. Never before has the Home Office committed to embark on a cultural reform programme of this scope on migration and race. This has the potential to be a big moment. 

The difficulties of implementing such wide-reaching reform cannot be underestimated - it will only be achieved with significant will and leadership. Can the Home Office rise to the challenge? The time has surely come to escape the never-ending cycle of reports/inquiries with their recommendations of wholesale change, followed by empty promises from the Government. 

A central call of the review is for a culture change that recognises migration is about people, and that whatever the objective of Home Office policy, it “should be rooted in humanity”. Whilst the idea of ‘humanity’ may sound vague, the consequences of its absence have been all too real for those at the sharp end of policy. An obsession with targets and creating a hostile environment has devastated the lives of countless individuals.  

Quite how dehumanising migration practice has become is highlighted by this chilling quote from a former Immigration Enforcement employee: “Because of the pressure felt on targets, there was an unquestioning attitude towards Hostile Environment measures, as everything that put pressure on migrants was seen as a good thing” (italics added). 

For many migrants, this “pressure” has translated into a demoralising, if not catastrophic, experience of the UK’s immigration system. Many of those that Migrant Voice is in touch with have experienced this first hand, daily coming up against a harsh, intransigent, faceless system, where they are seen as political pawns at best and enemies at worst.   

In the case of PhD student Myriam Cardouche, this combination of hostility and incompetence has caused immeasurable damage, leaving her exiled from the UK and unable to complete her studies after the Home Office made an error and completely failed in their duty to correct it.

Cultural change would be extremely welcome, but means little without practical and quantifiable measures. Fortunately, the review does not fail on this front. 

For example, Migrant Voice is encouraged by the review’s proposed creation of a new Migrants’ Commissioner. The position’s stated aim of “speaking up for migrants and those affected by the system”, whilst engaging with migrants and communities, has the potential to put migrant voices at the heart of policy-making. 

Some might argue that we have been here before and that the Home Secretary’s announcement is simply a case of lip service. Given the lack of progress on Windrush compensation and the NHS surcharge, this view is somewhat understandable. 

Nonetheless, we should not lose sight of the fact that the 30 detailed recommendations laid out by Wendy Williams  offer both a blueprint for the Home Office to follow, and a tool for those of us who will want to hold the Government to account in the months to come.

Moreover, it is often said that the hardest part of solving a problem is admitting there is one. The Government has now done this. They must now embrace the next phase of the process and prove the Home Office can be an institution fit for 2020 and beyond. 


TOP IMAGE: Empire Windrush graffiti, Bristol, duncan c, Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)