Britain's senior-most Indian-origin Cabinet minister, Priti Patel, has launched a new group to ensure immigrants affected by the Windrush scandal are able to access the compensation scheme set by the UK Home Office.
The Windrush scandal hit nationals of former British colonies, a majority from the Caribbean but many also from India, who arrived before 1973 when the rights of such Commonwealth citizens to live and work in Britain were substantially curtailed.
It had emerged that thousands belonging to that generation of migrants were wrongly denied their British citizenship rights, leading to the creation of an emergency taskforce as well as a compensation scheme.
"The Windrush generation were failed by successive governments and I want to ensure we reach all those affected through the Windrush Compensation Scheme through direct community engagement, said Patel, as she set up a new Windrush Advisory Group last week.
According to the latest Home Office statistics, as many as 737 Indians have come forward since the Windrush scandal emerged last year to confirm their British citizenship and the figure is expected to keep mounting.
A majority of them had arrived in the UK before 1973, when the immigration rules had changed, while the others either arrived later or were a family member of the so-called Windrush generation.
"I am enlisting trusted faith and community leaders from across the UK to raise awareness of the support available and to work with us directly on delivering this scheme. By working hand in hand with our community partners the government will be able to provide the essential support to members of the Windrush generation and address the suffering experienced by many people across a range of communities, she said.
The minister, who is of Gujarati origin, said the new group will meet regularly with senior officials in the UK Home Office with the aim of building trust with the affected communities so that people of all nationalities come forward to claim compensation.
It will also play a vital role in advising and shaping the Home Office's ongoing outreach and engagement strategy on the Windrush Compensation Scheme.
At the first meeting of the new group, Patel emphasised to community leaders that the UK's Immigration Enforcement authorities will not take action against an individual as a result of them coming forward to the Taskforce or applying for the Windrush Compensation Scheme.
Martin Forde, an independent advisor on the scheme, said: There have been a number of misleading claims made about the compensation scheme, but these could not be further from the truth. The scheme has been designed to be easy to use, generous and sympathetic to the experiences of those who suffered.
So my message is clear, if you feel you have suffered in any way please come forward and make a claim.
The Home Office said it is holding and attending a series of public events around the UK, to reach those who have been impacted by Windrush and ensure they are aware of the help that is available to them.
The Windrush Compensation Scheme was launched in April this year to provide payments to eligible individuals who did not have the right documentation to prove their status in the UK and suffered adverse effects on their life as a result.
It is open to almost anyone from a Commonwealth country who arrived and settled in the UK before 1973. Certain children and grandchildren of those arriving before 1973 and some close family members may also be eligible to apply.
It is also open to anyone from any nationality who has the right to live or work in the UK without any restrictions or is now a British citizen, and arrived in the UK before 31 December 1988.
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