Windrush debacle highlights dysfunctional immigration system.

Understanding the Windrush crisis requires context. Before a ‘hostile environment’ policy we had hostile rhetoric. A Labour government began this in 2004 when immigration issues claimed the ministerial scalps of David Blunkett and Beverley Hughes. To divert from culpability for the ‘favours’ and ‘scams’ that led to their resignations, immigration policies with hard-line messages were launched.

Immigration lawyers report that subsequent policy and rule changes were frequent, poorly conceived and badly executed – introducing an arbitrary element to the system. Any ‘fair’, well-administered regime seemed to let ‘too many’ people enter or stay in the UK.

And so we arrive at the policy of a hostile environment, which sits uneasily with the rule of law. If fair application of the rules could not bring numbers down, official incompetence and a thuggish approach to enforcement might. Caseworkers became less accessible – even to lawyers with rich, well-known clients.

None of this was intended to affect the Windrush generation, which is why the government has been caught off-guard. That, though, is the problem with a Home Office approach that reinforces its ‘hostile’ intent with limits on access to decision-makers and a suboptimal approach to paperwork.

Those affected deserve much better, which for some includes the compensation their lawyers are seeking.