Speaking for Ourselves

Editorial: Much ado about nothing

Editorial: Much ado about nothing


 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Editorial: Much ado about nothing

While Parliament is in recess, we need to see talk of Home Office reform being turned into action – and action that goes far beyond the specific scandals of Windrush. 

Currently, the prospect of such action being taken is a distant one. 

In response to the Wendy Williams review into Windrush and broader Home Office culture, the Home Secretary has promised “sweeping reforms” to her department, to its “culture, policies, systems and working practices”. She has described the Windrush scandal as a “stain” on the Home Office and acknowledged that “apologising is simply not enough”. 

Yet action has so far been absent, either to address the wrongs done to the Windrush generation, or to prevent such a scandal occurring again. Even on the issue of compensation for Windrush victims – the most concrete and perhaps easiest way to signal genuine good intentions – progress is painfully slow. Just a few days before “sweeping reforms” were promised, the Home Secretary admitted that the compensation scheme is “complicated” and that she wants to see it sped up. Yet she and this Government have been in office for a year – surely ample time to improve the scheme if they genuinely wished to.

What is most concerning regarding the prospect (or not) of genuine reform is the rhetoric and approach to issues that aren’t Windrush. When Windrush is the topic, the words coming from the Home Office are the right ones (even if action lags far behind). But for Home Office reform to be as fundamental as it’s been advertised, it cannot be compartmentalised. 

To have a “fair, humane, compassionate and outward-looking Home Office”, as we’ve been promised, we need fundamental reform of virtually every immigration policy – for asylum seekers, increased financial support and the right to work; an end to NRPF conditions; an acknowledgement in words and actions that migrants arriving across the Channel are desperate and have the right to seek asylum in the UK; significantly reduced visa costs and an end to the NHS surcharge; a fair resolution for thousands of international students wrongly stripped of their visas six years ago; the list could go on.

Yet on each of these issues – and many more – the Home Secretary has said all the wrong things and continues to defend and extend policies that are unfair, inhumane, cruel and inward-looking, policies that do harm on a daily basis. 

She has scoffed those arriving at Dover in barely seaworthy vessels, claiming they can’t possibly be asylum seekers and pledging to make this route “unviable” – which will surely only lead to these desperate people seeking even more dangerous routes to a safe future. She has refused to admit that £37 per week is inadequate financial support during a pandemic, insisting that there is no evidence to the contrary – despite regular articles in the media giving voice to suffering asylum seekers and letters sent to her directly by dozens of migration organisations. She has dismissed concerns about the devastating impact of NRPF conditions and of the catastrophic Home Office decision to strip thousands of students of their visas six years ago, telling MPs to send details of individual cases, but refusing to acknowledge and address the big picture. And she has vigorously defended a future points-based immigration system that crudely reduces people’s value to their income – dismissing the valuable work of people such as careworkers – and is rife with the potential for race, gender and age bias.

The Government and the Home Office have said again and again that a scandal such as Windrush must never happen again. But right now, all this talk looks like much ado about nothing. And as long as fundamental reform is postponed, thousands of people will continue to suffer the devastating impacts of bad policy and even worse implementation. 

We urge the Government – follow through on your promise for genuine reform. Let this be the turning point where that “fair, humane, compassionate and outward-looking Home Office”, beneficial to all of society, not just migrants, starts to become a reality.


TOP IMAGE: Priti Patel visits Calais, Number 10, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)