Hackney Council bans Home Office from Windrush advice event
PUBLISHED: 11:23 27 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:23 27 February 2020
Hackney Council last week disinvited Home Office representatives from an upcoming advice session for Windrush victims after deciding their presence could “do more harm than good”.
The call was made as a "direct consequence" of the deportation of 17 people to Jamaica earlier this month.
Twenty-five others remain in the UK after a judge found that they had not had adequate access to legal advice within detention centres.
The Windrush event on March 2 will offer free and confidential advice on how to apply for the Windrush compensation scheme, with expert immigration lawyers and the Citizens Advice Bureau on hand to answer questions.
The government's handling of the scheme has been criticised by Cllr Carole Williams, who leads on Windrush for the council, as not being publicised enough, with the Hoxton West representative warning that many will be "concerned about coming forward".
Cllr Williams said: "The Home Office had been invited to the event, along with other advice agencies.
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"Following the deportations, I consulted with the Mayor and we took the decision that we were no longer in a position to invite the Home Office to Hackney.
"We will be holding an event on 2 March, but the Home Office are not invited to that, and that is a direct consequence of the deportations.
"We want them to publish a lessons-learned review, to reconsider the hostile environment policies, and we want to see some sort of movement or process before we reconsider their invitation."
Cllr Williams added that she sees the council's role on Windrush as advocating on residents' behalf and to "push back against procedures", having steered officers to make sure that the wrongs suffered by victims of government policy are not "compounded".
The government argued against what it characterises as a "conflation" of the compensation scheme for Windrush victims with the deportation flights, pointing to the criminal records of those it sought to deport, which are said to have included rape, firearms, actual and grievous bodily harm, and supplying class A drugs.
Reports at the time saw detainees claiming they were imprisoned for less serious offences, with many of the people bound for deportation understood to have lived in the UK for most of their lives.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "It is disappointing there will be no Home Office presence at the event, given we had worked closely with Hackney Council to organise it.
"The only people set to miss out are members of the Windrush generation because Home Office officials would have provided important information on the compensation scheme and explained the wider services available."