The departure of Amber Rudd over the Windrush scandal should also mean the end of the government’s “hostile environment”, a baton the former home secretary picked up from her predecessor – and the architect of the policy – Theresa May. But this is something that is not just confined to the Home Office.
The murder of Stephen Lawrence 25 years ago, and the watershed Macpherson report that followed, brought to public attention the fact that racism does not just manifest itself as physical violence or personal abuse, but can also be institutional. William Macpherson defined it as the “collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin”.
Such failures on Windrush are stark. Commonwealth citizens – who have lived and worked in this country for decades – losing their jobs, prevented from coming home after travelling overseas, denied NHS treatment, threatened with deportation, held in detention centres or even deported. To borrow a phrase from the prime minister’s inaugural speech, these are burning injustices – black people being “treated more harshly by the criminal justice system”. And these injustices flow directly from the government’s hostile environment policy and its decision in 2014 to remove protection for Commonwealth citizens. They are institutional. The Windrush scandal has exposed the very worst of this government.
This government may have reported on its race disparity audit but, in truth, this just brings together data we already knew – that people from diverse communities face multiple layers of disadvantage. We are still waiting for the government to act on its findings.
Wherever you look, black, Asian and minority-ethnic people are disproportionately affected by government policies, and have to jump additional hurdles to succeed. It’s the same hostile environment.
Recent reports have exposed the profoundly shocking fact that in 2016, May’s first year as prime minister, not a single one of the 339 black Caribbean applicants to the government’s civil service fast stream scheme – which identifies and trains up the next generation of senior civil servants – was successful