How Did The Windrush Scandal Unfold? The Reporter Who Broke It Tells James O'Brien

8 October 2019, 13:16

Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian journalist and author of 'The Windrush Betrayal', talked to James O'Brien about how the Windrush Scandal unravelled and how she first realised it was something more systemic.

Gentleman told James O'Brien: "It began in November 2017, I was contacted by a charity who were very concerned about one of their clients, a woman called Paulette Wilson who had been taken into detention, was being threatened with deportation back to Jamaica. A country that she hadn't been in for 50 years.

"So Paulette is 61, arrived in Britain from Jamaica at the age of 10, and had lived all her life here, had worked in the House of Commons as a chef. There was absolutely no reason to detain her or to deport her because she had been living here entirely legally.

We published that article in The Guardian and, in the weeks that followed, I was gradually contacted by more and more people who were experience peculiar, very harsh decisions at the hands of the Home Office."

James O'Brien asked if she initially thought that Paulette was a one off?

She replied: "Yes. I just thought that it was an inexplicable, very cruel decision by the Home Office that was a mistake. In the weeks that followed, it became obvious that something much more systemic was going on and eventually clear that this was something affecting 1000s of people."

James then asked how he realised it was systemic.

Gentleman replied: "Two things. The coalition government had made this commitment to getting net migration to the tens of thousands. They weren't able to get it down. Quarter after quarter, these migration figures would come out showing they would get nowhere near their target.

So, in about 2012, there was a concerted effort through the cabinet to introduce a whole spectrum of policies that would make Britain a very hostile environment, in Theresa May's words, to anyone who was here illegally and that required people to show their passports on many more occasions, not just at the border, but when they were trying to get housing, when they were trying to get jobs, healthcare."

She explained how part of the problem was that "the Home Office wasn't very good at determining who was here legally and who was here illegally and that's kind of the one thing you would expect the Home Office to be good at".

She continued: "All of the people affected by the scandal were here legally. They arrived in the 60s, 70s, just didn't have the paperwork."

She told James about the upsetting case of man taken to Jamaica to celebrate a 50th birthday party. It was his first time back in Jamaica since childhood. Airport officials, upon his returns, said he didn't have right passport and wasn't allowed back for 18 months.

How Did The Windrush Scandal Unfold? The Reporter Who Broke It Tells James O'Brien
How Did The Windrush Scandal Unfold? The Reporter Who Broke It Tells James O'Brien. Picture: PA

The scandal, Gentleman said, was evidently not an accident. She explain: "The government certainly had very clear warnings four or five years before the problem emerged that exactly this group of people would be affected and somehow or other these warnings were discarded, it really raises difficult questions about what kind of person the government is concerned about and what kind of person it is prepared to accept may became collateral damage of new policies introduced."

A lot of people, according to Gentleman, have attributed it all to racism - and an independent government enquiry is looking into this.

More James O'Brien

See more More James O'Brien

Londoners to question the Mayor at annual State of London Debate with LBC

Londoners to question the Mayor at annual State of London Debate with LBC

Sacked borders watchdog David Neal said the Home Office is 'dysfunctional' and needs reform.

'It goes to the very top': Sacked border watchdog slams Home Office and calls for reform after Cleverly row

Exclusive
Shahd Waleed is trying to leave Rafah with her parents and enter Egypt

'They want us to experience pain': Young woman trapped in Rafah with her parents tells of terror as Israel invasion looms

Sir Keir Starmer has defended comments he made about Margaret Thatcher earlier this month.

Starmer defends Thatcher comments as he says he ‘completely disagrees’ with former prime minister’s politics

A caller to James O’Brien’s programme has shared footage of the extraordinary destruction done to his newly purchased property just outside of Durham.

Property investor's shock at 'unexplainable level of damage' he discovered after buying new home

Exclusive
James Cleverly replaced Suella Braverman as home secretary on Monday

'I've spent more time with James Cleverly this week than with Suella Braverman in the last year', Sadiq Khan tells LBC

James O'Brien discusses Suella Braverman's 'destructionist' leadership style with a caller

'She's a destructionist': James O'Brien caller claims Suella Braverman governs like 'a five-year-old'

James O'Brien

'She definitely has something on him': Caller and James O'Brien debate why the PM hasn't sacked Suella Braverman yet

'A complete reset of the top' is needed says caller.

'We're being let down': There is a 'complete disconnection' between parliamentary and local Conservatives says caller

James O'Brien

'It's essential that people are able to protest peacefully against war', says James O'Brien

James O'Brien

Rishi Sunak 'almost physically moves away' from Suella Braverman in House of Commons debate, says James O'Brien

James O'Brien

'Suella Braverman succeeded - she's caused hate', claims caller after Home Secretary criticises pro-Palestine marches

'A fish rots from the head': James O'Brien caller reacts to claims of misogyny in Downing Street during Covid Inquiry

'A fish rots from the head': James O'Brien caller reacts to claims of misogyny in Downing Street during Covid Inquiry

'Ludicrous, bogus, nonsense': James O'Brien is astounded by Boris Johnson 'laughing at Italy' during the pandemic

'Ludicrous, bogus, nonsense': James O'Brien is astounded by Boris Johnson 'laughing at Italy' during the pandemic

James O'Brien on Dagestan

'It's a hatred as old as religion itself': James O'Brien analyses escalating anti-Semitism after Muslim crowd storms Dagestan airport

Carol Vorderman shocked about UK Poverty

'One million children are living in destitution': Carol Vorderman struggles to comprehend stark wealth inequality in the UK

Wes Streeting on dentistry

Wes Streeting invites the government to steal Labour's policy to solve 'dickensian' NHS dentist crisis

James O'Brien

'I think they're the loneliest voters in Britain', James O'Brien claims after Tories' double by-election defeat

JOB and caller Andy

Biden's visit to Israel is to show that the US stands 'unequivocally' with Israel says James O'Brien caller

JOB and Usman

Israel's current response will only 'strengthen' Hamas by rearing Gazans who seek revenge warns this James O'Brien caller

JOB on deaths in conflict

James O'Brien unpacks the 'controversial' feeling of being 'equally devastated' by Palestinian and Israeli deaths

JOB on starmer speech

Keir Starmer is using 'working class as the opposite of having a sense of entitlement', notes James O'Brien

JOB on HS2 promises

James O'Brien criticises Rishi Sunak's watering down of 'illustrative' Network North projects funded by HS2 cut

Sadiq Khan and James O'Brien

Sadiq Khan declares there is 'no place for anti-Semitism' in London as kosher restaurant in Golders Green attacked

James O'Brien on the challenge HS2 scrappage poses to Labour.

‘How much can Rishi Sunak knock down before Keir Starmer becomes Prime Minister?, asks James O’Brien

James O'Brien

Rishi Sunak is like an 'incontinent cat': James O'Brien slams Tories ahead of PM's Party Conference speech

JoB and Jeremy Hunt

Navy veteran deeply hurt by Jeremy Hunt's plans to clamp down on benefit claimants

James O'Brien on Tory tactics in the upcoming election.

Tories desperately seeking wedge issues is the 'only way' they will retain power in 2024, says James O'Brien

James and caller Mervin on knife crime

'I'd prefer you to go to jail than die': James O'Brien is left aghast by this caller's father's stance on knife possession

James O'Brien

James O'Brien ridicules those prioritising Labour's private school VAT plans over the cost of living crisis

James O'Brien

'I mean this is a novel': James O'Brien hears why this caller blames Labour for HS2 problems

James O'Brien

James O'Brien takes aim at uninformed 'idiots' criticising Keir Starmer for not wanting to diverge from EU rules