- 2018 National Delegate Conference
- 7 June 2018
Conference notes that while the Windrush scandal has led to the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd on 30 April 2018, the policies themselves are still in operation and compensation schemes will be delayed while public consultations are held.
Conference is appalled at the treatment that UNISON member Michael Braithwaite and other members of the ‘Windrush Generation’ have been subjected to. Many have been deported, detained, lost jobs, homes, savings and access to vital public services. Those affected came from the Commonwealth, responding to the call of the UK Governments in the post-war period to come and rebuild the country and our public services. Conference believes that inhumane treatment of commonwealth citizens, many of whom have been failed at the very point they should have been looking forward to a well-earned retirement, echoes the racism they have had to fight all their lives.
It heightens our resolve to challenge the institutional racism that humiliates, threatens and treats the ‘Windrush generation’ and the migrant people who followed in their wake, like second-class citizens in this country.
Conference is also deeply concerned that the Home Office is about to gain sweeping powers in the Data Protection Act to strip any migrant person or British citizen of their data protection rights whenever they use public services, if it is for the purpose of ‘immigration control’. UNISON is disappointed that despite lobbying hard in the Commons, a cross-party attempt to prevent this failed narrowly on 9 May 2018. This exemption will restrict the rights of those affected by the ‘hostile environment’ effectively to challenge Home Office decisions, the very same right used by UNISON member Michael Braithwaite to successfully challenge the UK government.
Conference notes that on 10 May 2018 the government called for personal testimonies and evidence from affected people from the “Windrush Generation”, in order to draw up a compensation scheme, with a further technical consultation to run over the summer. In the meantime, those affected will continue to experience great suffering. Conference believes that immediate redress must first take place, including the release from detention of any facing deportation, the return of those wrongly deported, rights to legal aid and speedy and meaningful compensation not only for financial losses incurred but also injury to feelings.
Conference calls for an Independent Commission to review the workings of the Home Office and the legal framework of the ‘hostile environment’. Parliamentary scrutiny over the past few months has exposed the fact that the Home Office knew before and after they implemented the hostile environment that it would result in problems for people legally resident in the country and for British citizens who did not possess certain documents. The Home Office’s failure to heed multiple warnings, to monitor the impact of its policies and to follow its own rules has also been exposed.
Conference calls into question the operation of new immigration legislation since 2014 which has turned public sector employees such as nurses, doctors, teachers and teaching assistants into de facto immigration officers. Conference notes that landlords now face fines and liabilities for providing housing to anyone lacking documentation with the result that Black people now find it even harder to access decent housing. Conference notes that the offence of ‘illegal working’ criminalises vulnerable workers themselves and makes them vulnerable to the very worst employers. Conference asserts that this is a crisis created Theresa May during her tenure as Home Secretary and now as Prime Minister.
Conference believes that lacking sufficient documentation, as many members of the ‘Windrush Generation’ do, does not mean a lack of rights to reside, work or access public services. Conference believes that public service workers cannot be expected to act as immigration officials or make judgements about who is legitimately here or can access services if even the Home Office cannot. Conference notes that the Home Office themselves destroyed vital records held on the ‘Windrush Generation’, which should have supported their appeals and should have been preserved as a part of the cultural heritage and history of this country.
Conference asserts that trade unions must work to protect the rights of workers including migrant workers against exploitation from bosses, deportation and loss of access to public services such as health and education and all racist immigration controls.
Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:
1)Campaign for the restoration of full rights for the ‘Windrush Generation’, Commonwealth British residents and their children arriving in the UK between the 1940s to early 1970s;
2)Working through service groups to support and defend affected UNISON members from job losses and detrimental treatment;
3)Campaign for the UK government to operate a ‘fast track’ stand-alone system to enable any of the ‘Windrush Generation’ to gain immediate citizenship rights free of charge, without citizenship test requirements, whether they are in the country or abroad, as soon as possible;
4)Campaign for rights to legal aid and full compensation for any losses incurred including injury to feelings;
5)Campaign for an independent inquiry into the workings of the Home Office and the legal framework of the ‘hostile environment’;
6)Campaign against the ‘hostile environment’;
7)Work with Labour Link to ensure that the Labour Party adopts a rights based immigration policy , as a vital part of its mission to end the exploitation of all workers and particularly migrant workers.