Home Office failed to protect
Windrush generation, says
National Audit Office

The National Audit Office (NAO) today released a damning statement on the government’s handling of the Windrush generation’s immigration status.

It provoked a scandal in the spring of this year, when several long-term residents of the UK were caught out not having the correct paperwork to prove they had a legal right to live here. This included public sector workers and even some employed in the Houses of Parliament itself.

In its study, the NAO said that while the Home Office

‘did not deliberately deny the Windrush generation of their legal rights to be in the UK, it failed to protect their needs when it designed and implemented its immigration policies.

‘This has led to serious consequences for people affected.’

The NAO found that by creating what was called a ‘hostile environment’ to deter illegal migrants, the Home Office did not sufficiently consider the effect this could have on the legal migrants who might find it harder to prove their settled status in the UK.

These included Commonwealth subjects who arrived between 1948 and 1973, some on the Empire Windrush ship, and were granted indefinite leave to remain on arrival, but were never given paperwork. The NAO calls these people ‘surprised Brits’ as they are long-term residents who not consider anywhere other than the UK as home.

The report also accuses the government for not listening to repeated warnings from other agencies about the potential for this problem to arise.  It also criticises the current administration for not having yet established the full extent of the situation, nor identifying those who were eligible for compensation.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office said:

‘The treatment of people who had a legitimate right to remain in the UK, raises grave questions about how the Home Office discharged its duty of care towards people who were made vulnerable because of lack of documentation.

‘It failed to protect their rights to live, work and access services in the UK, and many have suffered distress and material loss as a result.

‘This was both predictable and forewarned.

‘The department is taking steps to put things right for the Caribbean community, but it has shown a surprising lack of urgency to identify other groups that may have been affected.’

The NAO also concludes that the government did not prioritise ‘the protection of those who suffered distress and damage through being wrongly penalised, and to whom they owed a duty of care.

‘Instead it operated a target-driven environment for its enforcement teams.’

Windrush scandal in numbers


Commonwealth-born UK residents who arrived legally before 1971

Half a million 

Settled migrants do not hold paperwork like a biometric residence permit to prove their right to live here and access public services


People who have been subsequently granted citizenship, or leave to remain, through the Home Office’s Windrush taskforce, as of 30 September 2018


Cases the Home Office identified of individuals in the country before 1973 who were detained and/or deported since 2002


People the Home Office considers most likely to have suffered detriment, such as being detained or removed, because their right to be in the UK was not recognised and therefore where it is most likely to have acted wrongfully


Caribbean nationals whose cases the Home Office is reviewing to assess whether or not they may have been in the UK before 1973 and whether they may have been a victim of the hostile environment

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