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UK Home Secretary Priti Patel promises 'culture change' at visa department

The new measures will include comprehensive training for everyone working in the Home Office to ensure they understand and appreciate the history of migration and race in UK.

Published: 22nd July 2020 01:54 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd July 2020 01:54 PM   |  A+A-

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel (Photo | AFP)

By PTI

LONDON: UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has promised a cultural change within her department, responsible for the country's visas, as part of a "lessons learned" review into the Windrush scandal, in which thousands of legal migrants of Commonwealth heritage were incorrectly denied British residency rights.

The Indian-origin Cabinet minister set out the action the UK Home Office is taking in response to the review released earlier this year in the wake of the scandal from two years ago, which wrongly denied the citizenship rights of some Commonwealth citizens brought to Britain to address labour shortages in the wake of World War II.

The new measures will include comprehensive training for everyone working in the Home Office to ensure they understand and appreciate the history of migration and race in this country.

Every existing and new member of staff working for the Home Office will be required to undertake this learning.

"I am driving change to implement the important findings of the Lessons Learned review to make sure nothing like this can happen again," Patel said on Tuesday.

"The action I have taken will ensure cultural change at the department, leading to more diverse leadership. I want the Windrush generation to have no doubt that I will reform the culture of the department so it better represents all of the communities we serve," she said.

The Windrush generation refers to citizens of former British colonies who arrived in the UK before 1973 when the rights of such Commonwealth citizens to live and work in Britain underwent a legal modification.

While a large proportion of them was of Jamaican/Caribbean descent who came on the ship Empire Windrush on June 22, 1948, Indian and other South Asian immigrants from that era also fall within the Windrush generation categorisation.

As part of the new steps, the Home Office says the greater emphasis will be placed on taking a more "compassionate approach" to individual applications and decision-makers will be empowered to use their own discretion and pragmatism.

The department will also increase engagement with civil society and the public at an early stage to build evidence for policy.

A move which the minister said would change the Home Office's "openness to scrutiny".

To ensure the Home Office reflects the diverse communities it serves, diverse shortlists for senior jobs and specialist mentoring will be introduced.

This will ensure more Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people will be in senior roles to drive cultural change," the department said.

Patel also announced an evaluation of the "compliant environment" policy and measures, which have been seen as being harsh on immigrants.

The evaluation will make sure there are the right protections in place to protect against immigration abuse, whilst ensuring no one with a legal right to be here is wrongly penalised, the Home Office said.

This action, alongside the other work underway to implement the findings of the Wendy Williams Lessons Learned Review, will help ensure that what happened to the Windrush generation can never happen again, it added.

All the recommendations have been grouped into different themes of work, to ensure the lessons from the review are being applied and delivered across all Home Office activity.

The department said it is also introducing more diverse shortlists for senior jobs, with specialist mentoring and sponsorship programmes to help develop a wider pool of talent.

The Home Office said a comprehensive improvement plan will be published by September, which will show how the department is delivering on the recommendations of the "lessons learned" review.

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