Windrush crisis demands conversion of heart, says JRS UK

Houses of Parliament

In the wake of the crisis engulfing the government over its treatment of Windrush-era citizens, the Jesuit Refugee Service in the UK (JRS UK) has called on the government to make a radical change in their approach to migration, saying the cruelty of the hostile environment agenda demonstrates the need for deep reflection on the inhumane and unethical assumptions that underscore it.

The stories of Windrush-era citizens being stripped of their rights following the aggressive stance heralded by the Government’s hostile environment agenda has brought into the public eye the hostile environment’s consequences for human lives. This complex web of policies was introduced to make life for those living in the UK without documentation as difficult as possible. In apologising to those Windrush-era citizens caught up in this system, the Home Secretary has admitted that their treatment has been “appalling” and arose because the Home Office “lost sight of individuals”.

However, the Windrush citizens are not the only victims of the hostile environment agenda. JRS UK accompanies, serves, and advocates for the rights of asylum seekers who find themselves struggling to gain recognition of their status as a refugee, in the face of a Home Office system which often seems stacked against them. They too are subject to the hostile environment agenda, which imposes on them destitution, detention, homelessness, and difficulty accessing healthcare.

JRS UK Director, Sarah Teather, says “The terrible stories we have heard from individuals of the Windrush-era echo those we hear daily from asylum seekers we accompany at JRS UK, who came here in search of safety. Deprived of their rights, asylum seekers and other undocumented migrants rely solely on the goodwill of strangers and charities to survive day-to-day as they struggle with destitution and constant fear of detention.

“The Home Secretary has openly apologised for the way her government has treated Windrush citizens. But it is not enough to tinker at the edges, make exceptions for a few without looking at the deeper rot. The hostile environment agenda is deeply cruel and and is symptomatic of an approach which is inhumane and lacking sound ethical foundation. Now is the time for the government to reflect deeply on its approach, on its attitudes to human life and engage in some true conversion of heart. This crisis provides the government with an opportunity to stop and think; they should take it.”

Read Sarah Teather's article on The Tablet 'How and why we must learn the lessons of the Windrush scandal'