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Saturday 10 April 2021

An open letter to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities on its report of 31 March 2021, signed by victims of the Windrush scandal and their lawyers, campaigners, advocates, activists and allies

Open letter regarding the Race Report from  those directly impacted by the Windrush Scandal and individuals and organisations who have campaigned for justice with them. 

Co-signed by BARAC UK and BAME Lawyers for Justice representatives including National Chair of BARAC UK Zita Holbourne and National Women's Officer of BARAC UK Donna Guthrie

Art by Zita Holbourne,  Poet~Artist~Activist 

Read original here

Letter in the Independent newspaper here

 From the Centre for Migration Advice and Research on behalf of the assigned signatories

                             c/o McKenzie Beute and Pope

       The Woodlawns Centre 16 Leigham Court Road Streatham London SW16 2PJ


Dr Tony Sewell

Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities

10 Victoria Street


SW1A 0NN                                                                      9 April 2021

Dear Dr Tony Sewell,

Re: The 31 March 2021 Report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities

We have read the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, published on 31

March 2021, for which you wrote the foreword as chair of the Commission. We are made up

of, and represent, the victims of the Windrush scandal, as the lead organisations, lawyers,

campaigners, researchers and others supporting those affected by the scandal in a myriad of

ways. We are concerned to find that your report appears to have ignored the Windrush

scandal, exposed in late 2017/early 2018 as one of the most significant instances of group

discrimination of our time. The systematic discrimination of the Black community known as

the Windrush generation demonstrates not only how the acts of institutions and the state

negatively affects the lives of Black people in the UK, but how this has gone onto impact

upon future generations.

The injustices meted out to the Windrush generation are therefore well-known. Why then is

the only reference to the scandal in your report a suggestion that those affected feel let

down? Let down? This is not how we would describe it. Lives have been destroyed. For

example, several claimants to the Windrush compensation scheme, whose stories were

published in the press forcing the government to apologise and take action, died due to

health complications caused in part by the stress of their situation, long before they ever

received any compensation.

In your introduction, you refer to your team having spoken to communities as part of your

engagement. Why then did you not speak to those of us who are directly affected by the

Windrush scandal or who are part of over thirty organisations working to support the

thousands of people directly affected?

There does not appear to be much support for your report and generally we agree with the

criticisms levelled against it. We are at a loss to understand how you arrived at the

conclusions you did with the vast amount of independent data available to you. Intrigue on

your method of scholarship aside, we are stunned and heartbroken at your attempt to defile

the memory of those who were subjected to the brutality of the transatlantic slave trade

and the systematic oppressions that followed it, by recasting their experience, and your


 ignorance  of the impact on subsequent generations. There is no experience of that Maafa1

other than an honest admission of how people were dehumanised and subjugated purely

because of their race.

From the report, we were looking for an appraisal of how the racism that dehumanised

during the slave trade, continues to blight the lives of its descendants, and what you

planned to do to tackle the intergenerational consequences. Instead, your report is a

dreadful attempt to rewrite history and denigrate it to a footnote. You are effectively

denying the true experiences and existences of Black people, so that the annals of history

will once again favour the oppressors.

You say in your report that historic experiences haunt the present and that there is a

reluctance to acknowledge that the UK has become open and fairer. Are you not aware that

despite the aggravating features of the hostile environment, the current injustices are

historic in nature? The origins of these more contemporary injustices are steeped in historic

legislation fuelled by people like Enoch Powell, Oswald Mosely and Margaret Thatcher, the

latter of whom referred to this country as becoming swamped by migrants. Do you think

that these injustices are imagined? Do you think the lived experience of the victims of these

injustices should be ignored?

Some of us and people we know have been denied lifesaving medical treatment, lost jobs

and houses, have been detained, removed and deported from the UK. People we know

have died and large numbers are affected by ongoing trauma – an intergenerational trauma.

Have you noticed that the victims of the Windrush scandal are mostly people of African and

Caribbean descent?

You find that an unexplained approach to closing disparity gaps is the extent to which

individuals and their communities ought to help themselves through their own agency,

rather than waiting for “invisible external forces” to assemble to do the job. Are you saying

then that those affected by the Windrush scandal brought the problems upon themselves?

Do you think that there is something that could have been done to have stopped the state

from destroying landing cards and records of those who arrived from Commonwealth

countries in the Caribbean? Or from demanding that people pay thousands of pounds that

they did not have to obtain a status that they already held?

Do you know how hard this community has worked to support itself? Though you allude to

knowledge of the role of supplementary schools as a positive force, you appear to have

failed to understand that the need to establish these schools was because of structural,

systemic and institutional racism in the mainstream education sector.

You ascribe a new era to the presence of the Windrush generation in the UK. The historical

one has gone apparently, and you define an era of rebellion which you say has also passed.

According to you, we are now in an era of participation. We are having to second guess

what you might mean by this, but in terms of the Windrush scandal, the one initiative set up

by the Home Office which was meant to involve the meaningful participation of those

affected – a stakeholder group - was dismantled by the Secretary of State just last month,

1Maafa is a term derived from Kiswahili meaning ‘a great disaster or tragedy’ or ‘terrible occurrence’. It is

used to describe the Transatlantic slave trade and its lingering effects.


on the basis that a new Cross-Government Working Group chosen by her would assume the


You say further that you want the children of the Windrush generation to discover their

British heritage. What do you mean precisely? That they are ill informed about their

history? Why do you think that might be? Which child in the UK, of any background, knows

less about the true and complex British history and heritage than any other? Have you read

Wendy William’s Windrush Lessons Learned Review? As you do not appear to have referred

to it in your report. She found that the history of the Windrush generation was

institutionally forgotten and specifically recommended that:

 “6 a) The Home Office should devise, implement and review a comprehensive learning and

 development programme which makes sure all its existing and new staff learn about the

 history of the UK and its relationship with the rest of the world, including Britain’s colonial

 history, the history of inward and outward migration and the history of black Britons. This

 programme should be developed in partnership with academic experts in historical

 migration and should include the findings of this review, and its ethnographic research, to

 understand the impact of the department’s decisions.”

The mistreatment of the Windrush generation started on 22 June 1948, when HMT

Windrush anchored off Tilbury Docks, and several MPs at the time sought to turn away free

women and men who had been invited to the UK, sending them to work on a peanut

plantation in Africa instead. Though people thereafter could stay in the UK to work

predominantly in the public sector, they were also subject to everyday racism and

discrimination. Can you not see that their experiences and subsequently those of their

descendants, have been plagued with inequalities and subsequent disparities of

achievement? Despite all the hard work of the Windrush generation to better themselves,

their families and support British society, the evidence shows that the systemic inequality

that plagued the first generation and their descendants continue to suffer worsening

outcomes in almost every area of life including education, health, mental wellbeing,

housing, business ownership, employment and criminal justice.

And how dare you start pitting different nationalities of Black people against another

without doing the necessary work to understand how different histories – histories of

enslavement, for example, and complex migration patterns across different eras – have

impacted on outcomes? Had you spoken to us, or to any academics working in these fields,

we might have been able to tell you this.

You find that Britain is no longer a country with a system rigged against ethnic minorities.

Several reports before yours have concluded that it is. How did you arrive at such a vastly

different conclusion? What do you think accounts for the conclusions you have reached,

when the same data has elsewhere produced vastly different outcomes? What of the

findings of universities, the civil service, the NHS and the FTSE 100 corporations which

confound yours?

We do not think that the UK is a beacon for any other country. It is steeped in a systemic

and structural racism that extends far beyond the Windrush generation. As direct and

indirect victims of the Windrush scandal and supporters of their cause, we stand in solidarity

with those seeking asylum; those whose families are being torn apart by draconian polices


and extortionate fees; those women and men who are held in immigration detention

centres deemed unfit for human inhabitation; those who have made the UK their home and

face deportation to countries they do not know; those foreign students falsely accused and

disbelieved, like many of our number; and the holiday makers from many non-visa

Caribbean countries who end up in immigration detention centres because an immigration

officer has decided that their reasons for visiting the UK are not legitimate, to name just a

few. We are astonished that your report is silent on these matters, which form part of the

complex combination of factors that affect how and which communities advance in society.

Who is it that creates the policies, rules and legislation that disproportionately impacts upon

Black people? Who created a right-to-rent scheme, which was found to influence landlords

on whether they choose to rent to people of different backgrounds? Who came up with a

system that required employers, schools, nurseries and doctors to start checking

immigration statuses, and which caused so many to wrongly lose their jobs, livelihoods and

in some cases their will to live?

You state that those from the Black Caribbean ethnic group, which includes the first

generation of Windrush victims, makes up one of the longer-standing migrant groups in the

UK. You then conclude that minorities who have long been established in the country, in a

context of persistent racial and socio-economic disadvantage, may be the least likely to be

optimistic about the potential for social mobility and education to transform their lives.

Again, not only do you ignore your own evidence, especially in relation to the historical and

current role of supplementary schools as one example, but you ignorantly neglect to

consider the aspirations of that first generation. That generation hoped that their children

would have opportunities that they did not, only to discover that the system sent their

children to approved schools, or told their children that they could not aspire to certain

exams, universities or career choices. This broke their hearts.

We were also puzzled by this statement:

   “The Commission further recognises the wisdom and lived experience of the Windrush

   generation that has seen the changing shape of race relations in the UK, from which

   the young can learn. This knowledge needs to be framed into a message that speaks

   more about responsibilities, conflict resolution, and the building of bridges.”

Do you think that members of the Windrush generation have burnt bridges, inspired conflict

and/or are being irresponsible?

Though Wendy Williams did not make a definitive finding of institutional racism in the Home

Office, following her review into the Windrush scandal, she did express serious concern that

the department’s failings demonstrated an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness

towards race and history, which were consistent with some elements of the definition of

institutional racism.

If you have some of the elements of racism, there is racism. If it comes from an institution,

it is institutional. If there is evidence that a racial group is disproportionately disadvantaged

in and by bodies such as courts and tribunals, schools and universities, hospitals and the

police and in private and social organisations across sectors, then that racism might well be



We ask that you listen to the many experts in race, culture and society who have spoken out

this past week and for many years on these issues. We have listened to them too. You

should look particularly closely at the work of Tendayi Achiume, the UN Special Rapporteur

on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,

who found in June 2019 that the UK Government’s policies exacerbate discrimination, stoke

xenophobic sentiment and further entrench racial inequality. She cited persistent racial

disparities in, among others, education, employment, housing, health, surveillance,

interactions with police, prosecutions, and incarceration. She found:

  “Notwithstanding the existence of a legal framework devoted to combating racial

  discrimination, the harsh reality is that race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability status

  and related categories all continue to determine the life chances and well-being of people

  in Britain in ways that are unacceptable and, in many cases, unlawful;” and

 "Undoubtedly, the UK’s attempts to collect disaggregated data, review discriminatory

 outcomes, and draft action plans are vital to the realization of the human right to racial

 equality. "However, the Government must not confuse data collection and piecemeal

 reviews for the action it obliged to take under international human rights law. The

 Government has a duty to undertake comprehensive reviews and implement without

 delay concrete steps targeted to ending racial discrimination and ensuring racial equality."

We believe that you must now revisit your work and examine the data more closely, seek

evidence from a wider variety of sources, consult experts in a credible way and start to draw

conclusions based on the facts. If you cannot do that, then you should stand down from a

commission that is meant to be investigating race and disparity to understand the current

issues and how government and society can work together to address them. We look

forward to hearing from you and in the interim, we would be grateful if you could use your

position to ensure that the 30 recommendations of Wendy Williams are implemented in a

timely manner because the issues raised by the Windrush scandal, are ongoing.

Yours sincerely,

[See overleaf for signatories]


The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP Prime Minister

The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP Secretary of State for the Home Department


The people signing this letter all have a connection with Windrush injustice. Some are direct

victims and some are from organisations working with those directly affected. We have split

the list into organisational representatives and individuals signing in their own right.


Jacqueline McKenzie: McKenzie Beute and Pope & Centre for Migration Advice and

Research’s Windrush Justice Project

Michele Beute: McKenzie Beute and Pope

Anthony Hillary: McKenzie Beute and Pope

Jerome Bond: McKenzie Beute and Pope

Arthur Torrington CBE: Windrush Foundation

Professor Gus John: Communities Empowerment Network.

Windrush Lives: advocacy and support group for Windrush victims

Windrush Compensation Project: University of Leicester

Dawn Hill: Windrush National Organisation and Black Cultural Archives

Cllr Sonia Winifred: Cabinet Member Equalities and Culture London Borough of Lambeth

Councillor Patsy Cummings: Race Equality Champion London Borough of Croydon

Councillor Carole Williams: Cabinet member for employment and skills and HR London

Borough of Hackney

Councillor Callton Young OBE, Chair of Croydon African Caribbean Family Organisation, and

Cabinet Member and Windrush Champion London Borough of Croydon

Dr Suzella Palmer: Applied Social Studies University of Bedfordshire

Judge D Peter Herbert O.B.E: Chair BAME Lawyers for Justice & retired Chair of the Society

of Black Lawyers)

Lee Jasper: Vice Chair BAME Lawyers for Justice

Miranda Grell: BAME Lawyers for Justice

Zita Holbourne: National Chair and Founder of BARAC UK and BAME Lawyers for Justice

Donna Guthrie: BARAC UK and BAME Lawyers for Justice

Bishop Dr Desmond Jaddoo: Chair Windrush National Organisation and Windrush


Reverend Clive Foster: Vice Chair Windrush National Organisation and Windrush


Councillor Jacqueline Burnett: Windrush National Organisation and Windrush Luton

Anthony Brown: Windrush National Organisation and WD Legal Manchester

Claude Hendrickson: Windrush National Organisation and Race Card Leeds Project

Glenda Caesar: Windrush National Organisation and Windrush Lives

Jean Prescod: Windrush National Organisation and Septimus Severus Coventry

Glenda Andrew: Windrush National Organisation and Preston Windrush Generation


Charlie Williams Windrush National Organisation and Windrush Birmingham

Neil Mukherjee: Windrush National Organisation and Windrush Legacy Oxon

Sibon Phiri: United Legal Access

Melanie Clarke: United Legal Access

Samantha Young: Windrush Legal Angels

Tarjee Clarke: Windrush Legal Angels

Dr Gifty Edila: Windrush Justice Clinic

Anna Steiner: University of Westminster and Windrush Justice Clinic


Sally Causer: Southwark Law Centre and Windrush Justice Clinic

Holly Stow: Windrush Justice Clinic

Bella Sankey: Detention Action

Dianne Greyson: Equilibrium Mediation Consulting and Ethnicity Pay Gap Campaign

Carol Cooper: Global Talent Compass

Luke Daniels: Caribbean Labour Solidarity

Kingsley Abrams: Momentum Black Caucus (MBC)

Yvette Williams: Justice 4 Grenfell

Clive Phillip: Mangrove Community Association

Ngoma Silver: Leopold School (Harlesden) Renaming Group

Bob Foster: Windrush Nurses and Beyond Foundation

Nana Asante: IPAD Coalition UK

Nana Haja Salifu: European Network of People of African Descent

Olalekan Odedeyi: Save the Woman

Naglaa Sadik Mustafa: Abdul Mageed Educational Trust

Mojisola Sorunke: The African Sang

Ishmahil Blagrove JR: Rice and Peas

Joan Hall: Just Education Matters

Shaun Pascal: Black Wall Street Media

Esther Armah: The Armah Institute of Emotional Justice

Glen Watson: RMTs Black Solidarity Committee


Anna Rothery: Lord Mayor of Liverpool

Lord Simon Woolley

Professor Sir Geoff Palmer OBE CD

Professor Leslie Thomas QC: Barrister

Martin Forde QC: Barrister

Marcia Willis Stewart QC (hon): Solicitor

Professor Sara Chandler QC (hon)

Leroy Logan MBE

Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu

Dr Sandra Richards

Charles Crichlow: former president of the National Black Police Association

Lewitt Nurse: Barrister

Grace Brown: Barrister

David Neita: Barrister

Akima Paul Lambert: Solicitor Advocate

Evelyn Ofori-Koree: Solicitor Advocate

Frances Swaine: Solicitor

Pamela Robotham: Solicitor

Catherine Evans: Solicitor

Sally Gill: Solicitor

Paul McFarlane: Solicitor

Donna Samuels: Solicitor

Pamela Dosu: Solicitor

Darlene Waithe: Solicitor

Tinu Adeshile: Solicitor


Sharon Thomas: Solicitor

Ama Ocansey: Solicitor

Joy Van-Cooten: Solicitor

Geraldine Cumberbatch: Solicitor

Sally- Ann Meade: Solicitor

Alex Pascall OBE

Patrick Vernon OBE

Rev Fujo Malaika

Alexandra Ankrah

Yvonne Witter

Natasha Dyer-Williams

Dennot Nyack

David Weaver

Kadi Wilson

Tonika Stephenson

Kimberly McIntosh

Sentina Bristol

Gertrude Ngozi Chinegwundoh

Roy Lee

Adebowale Adelodun

Lebert McLeod

Teresa W. Joseph-Loewenthal

Lorna Downer

Sara Louise-Burke

Bobby Holder

Louis Smart

Vonfil Johnson

Joycelyn John

Ros Griffiths

Barbara Lindsay

Elizabeth Madden

Annemarie Madden

Luigi Madden

Andrew Madden

Shaa Madden

Sherry Ann Desmangles

Danny Hippolyte

Dexter Hippolyte

Christopher Oliver

Veronique Belinga

Vernon Vanriel

Louis Smart

Yvonne Mark

Annie Campbell Viswanathan

Sulekha Hassan

Sophia Mangera

Margaret Greer


Alexandra Braithwaite

Angie Le Mar

Chardine Taylor-Stone

Marlene Clarke


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