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The Home Office contributed to serious injustices faced by the Windrush generation by failing to comply with equality law when implementing “hostile” immigration measures, a report has found.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) looked into how the department complied with the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) when developing and implementing the “hostile environment” policy agenda.

Introduced in 2012, then home secretary Theresa May‘s “hostile environment” policy tried to make staying in the UK as difficult as possible for people who do not have leave to remain in the hope they will depart of their own accord, it was found.

The EHRC assessment concluded that negative consequences of the policy on black members of the Windrush generation were constantly ignored, dismissed or their severity disregarded. It was also discovered that there was limited engagement with representatives of the Windrush generation, even as the severe effects of hostile environment policies began to emerge.

Exceptions to the PSED for immigration were found to have been interpreted incorrectly or inconsistently in many cases, and there was a general lack of commitment from the Home Office to equality, the report said.

The findings of the assessment support the view of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review that the experiences of the group were “foreseeable and avoidable”.

Caroline Waters, interim chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “The treatment of the Windrush generation as a result of hostile environment policies was a shameful stain on British history.

“It is unacceptable that equality legislation, designed to prevent an unfair or disproportionate impact on people from ethnic minorities and other groups, was effectively ignored in the creation and delivery of policies that had such profound implications for so many people’s lives.

“Our review has identified where the Home Office fell short of its legal obligations.”

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