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In a new report released today IPPR sets out a blueprint for preventing a repeat of the Windrush scandal and ending the hostile environment.

According to the report ‘Beyond the Hostile Environment’ The Home Office is in a state of policy paralysis after years of overseeing the deeply flawed hostile environment policy, according to a major new report from the Institute for
Public Policy Research (IPPR). Extensive “root and branch” reform is now needed to move on from the policy and rehabilitate the department, according to the think tank.

In a comprehensive analysis of the hostile environment published in September, IPPR found the policy had forced people into destitution, fostered racism and discrimination, and was a driving factor in the emergence of the Windrush scandal. The policy also failed in its own terms, with no discernible impact on encouraging individuals without immigration status to voluntarily leave the UK. While calls for reform have been made across the political spectrum – most prominently by Wendy Williams’ Windrush Lessons Learned review – this report is the first to set out a blueprint for a new institutional and policy approach to ending the hostile environment for good.


To transform the government’s approach to immigration enforcement, the report calls for the repeal of many of the legislative building blocks behind the hostile environment – including key parts of the Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016. At its heart, the hostile environment is underpinned by the checks, charges and datasharing measures carried out by employers, landlords, and frontline workers. IPPR found these provisions had effectively outsourced immigration enforcement – exposing migrants to potential racial discrimination and often mistakenly impacting people with legal immigration status. The policy was also found to have deterred some from seeking vital police or
medical assistance when needed. In the midst of a pandemic, this is particularly troubling, the report notes.

The think tank calls for the legislation to be reformed or replaced by provisions that shift the legal responsibility for immigration checks back to government, and guarantee safe access to services for all UK residents. The report argues that one practical step to do this would be repealing the ‘right to rent’ provisions that place the burden of checks on landlords.

IPPR also calls for the government to immediately introduce a ‘firewall’ between public services and immigration enforcement, so that individuals without immigration status can safely seek urgent medical, social and law enforcement help without fear of their details being shared with the Home Office.


The report calls for considerable institutional and cultural reform at the Home Office to instil three core principles into the department: making decisions scrupulously based on evidence; rooting out racism and discrimination; and being subject to scrutiny from those with direct experience of the immigration system. Building on the recommendations of the Windrush Lessons Learned review and the Home Office comprehensive improvement plan, IPPR proposes that the Home Office:

• Strengthens its evidence-based approach by expanding its Analysis and Insight Directorate to regularly assess the impact of all proposed and existing policies on affected groups.
• Tackles discrimination further by regularly assessing policy and operations to identify discriminatory patterns and enact action plans with deadlines for change.
• Creates a new independent body responsible for migrants’ rights to investigate complaints, advocate for, and safeguard the rights of migrants.

The think tank proposes introducing simplified pathways to legal residency for eligible people currently living in the UK without immigration status. The report says the current system is convoluted, expensive and difficult to access; and warns that for people in the most vulnerable circumstances, this leaves them in a state of limbo – in particular need of support, yet unable to access it.

IPPR recommends that the Home Office develop two clear pathways to legal residency to improve the system:

• The long residence route – a simplified application for eligible individuals who have lived in the UK for many years. This would offer indefinite leave to remain, rather than ‘limited leave to remain’ that requires a costly frequent renewal.
• The vulnerable situation route – to ensure indefinite leave to remain for people in vulnerable situations, including victims of trafficking, modern slavery and domestic abuse. The hostile environment has made it harder for people in these situations to access the support they need, according to the report.

Taken together, these proposals aim to address the most damaging impacts of the hostile environment, while also allowing the Home Office to improve its own functioning and reputation, according to the report.
Marley Morris, IPPR Associate Director, said: “As our research and the findings of other reviews have revealed, the immigration enforcement system in the UK is in need of root and branch reform. “Not only has the hostile environment precipitated the Windrush Scandal, but it has also failed to even achieve its own stated aims of encouraging individuals to voluntarily leave. To learn the lessons from the Windrush scandal, the home secretary should take the opportunity to tackle head-on the adverse impacts of the hostile environment and overhaul the Home Office directorate responsible for its enforcement.”

Amreen Qureshi, IPPR Researcher, said: “This reform package would have wide-ranging benefits for migrants, the Home Office and the wider public. Minimising the role of employers, landlords and frontline workers in administering immigration checks and data-sharing would help to both reduce the risks of racial discrimination and relieve the burden of immigration control from ordinary citizens.

“Changes to Home Office policies and culture won’t happen overnight, but that shouldn’t mean the department just sits in policy paralysis. As the UK’s immigration system is reshaped post-Brexit, now is the time to institute sweeping reforms to prevent a repeat of the Windrush scandal.”

Following the publication of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, 15 race equality and migrant rights organisations (full list below) have today called for an independent review into the extent of institutional racism in the Home Office and whether its immigration policies are in accordance with equality law around racial discrimination.

The Windrush Lessons Learned Review outlines that the UK’s treatment of the Windrush generation was caused by institutional failures to understand race and racism in relation to the Macpherson definition of institutional racism, as set out in Lord Macpherson’s landmark Inquiry report(1999) into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

The 15 race equality and migrant rights organisations, including the Runnymede Trust, are also urging the government to make a full apology to those affected by the Windrush injustices and to make the Windrush Compensation Scheme more accessible and to introduce independent oversight of the scheme, as a matter of urgency.

Further recommendations include scrapping the Hostile Environment and appointing an independent advisory group and chair reporting directly to No. 10 and the Cabinet Office to implement the findings of the Windrush Lesson Learned Review, and ensure the inhumane injustices of the Windrush Scandal are not repeated.

The full set of recommendations are:

  • The treatment of the Windrush generation was a terrible but predictable injustice. The Review shows that government ignored repeated warnings and has still refused to apologise and compensate people who were detained, deported and in some cases died having been wrongfully treated. The government must right the wrong, beginning with a full apology to those affected, and making the compensation scheme process more independent and accessible.
  • The Review shows why the Hostile Environment must be scrapped. None of the measures cited in the report, such as Right To Rent, have been repealed, the Home Office continues to treat people badly while the current Immigration Bill continues with policies and framing that will lead to further injustices.
  • The EHRC to undertake an independent review into whether the Home Office’s immigration policy and practices are in accordance with equality law, including its understanding of racial discrimination and the extent of institutional racism in the department.
  • The Review also reveals poor workplace practices and culture in the Home Office. It is long past time for systemic reforms in decision-making, to ensure caseworkers get better support and are able to raise concerns with senior managers, and for leadership to send a stronger message that it is committed to a more open and empathetic organisational culture.
  • Deportations of those who have lived in Britain since they were children should now end. Further, citizenship policy (including fees) should ensure that those who have the right to citizenship are provided with that citizenship, and racially discriminatory clauses in the 1971 Immigration Act and the 1981 Immigration and Nationality Act should be repealed.
  • The government should commit to an extensive, well-funded programme of support for grassroots and voluntary sector services that run outreach and support programmes for survivors of the Windrush injustice. The Hostile Environment is the latest in a catalogue of injustices experienced by this community over many years, and so this support should be extended to the wider cause of racial justice.
  • The Windrush injustice reflects the Home Office’s failure to listen to those affected and organisations that pointed out the likely impact of the Hostile Environment. Government has refused to listen to civil society, dismissed concerns out of hand and attacked the integrity of those raising genuine concerns. The government must implement the WLLR recommendations on better engaging outside government, including groups that criticise its policies, if it is to avoid another similar injustice.
  • The government should establish an independent advisory group and chair that reports directly to Number 10 and the Cabinet Office on the implementation of the Windrush Lesson Learned Review.

The full list of race equality and migrant rights organisations supporting these recommendations are:

The Runnymede Trust; Race on the Agenda; Voice4Change England; JCWI; Migrant Rights Network; Jewish Council for Race Equality; Traveller Movement; Race Equality Foundation; Friends, Families and Travellers; Olmec; BME Forum Croydon; Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre; Council of Somali Organisations; Caribbean and African Health Network; Black Training and Enterprise Group

Dr Zubaida Haque, Deputy Director, the Runnymede Trust said: 
“The findings of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review are alarming, wide-ranging and profound: a terrible injustice was done to the Windrush generation, but the events and policies leading up to it were entirely predictable. Wendy Williams, the Independent Reviewer, makes it very clear that the injustice was not an accident, but a result of institutional failures to understand race and racism, in comparative ways as defined by Lord Macpherson’s definition of institutional racism over 20 years ago.”

“It is now incumbent on this government to not only “right the wrongs” suffered by the Windrush generation (and other ethnic minority groups) as a result of the government’s hostile environment policies, but also to understand how and why Home Office culture, attitudes, immigration and citizenship policies have repeatedly discriminated against black and ethnic minority British citizens. Unless the issues around institutional racism are meaningfully addressed, we risk the same mistakes and injustices being repeated.”

Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon OBE said:
“It has been two years since the Windrush Scandal was exposed highlighting how the government systematically, as part of the Hostile Environment, abused the human rights and dignity of British citizens from the Windrush generations and descendants. We now need effective leadership from the Prime Minister to swiftly implement the recommendations with independent oversight of the Home Office. The report is more than lessons learnt, it is an indictment of the nature and impact of structural racism in government and how politicians and senior civil servants over the years have failed to have a duty of care and respect to the Windrush Generation”