The United Kingdom is expanding its compensation reach for mistreated immigrants to include people from countries such as Kenya, who may have lived in Britain for years but were still denied citizenship.
The programme, known as the Windrush Compensation Scheme, initially targeted the 12 Caribbean nations whose nationals responded to a call by the UK to help boost the labour force after World War II.
But the British Home Office on Wednesday announced it was inviting anyone from both Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth nations who immigrated to the UK before 1988, to apply for compensation.
The Commonwealth is a grouping of nations formerly colonised by the UK, although it also includes countries such as Rwanda (Belgium) and Mozambique (Portugal) which joined as part of political strategies.
This compensation, which the Home Office says is meant to “right the wrongs experienced”, is lumped in the Windrush scheme.
It provides financial payments to claimants from this generation of immigrants who did not have proper documents to stay in the UK but who suffered losses as a result.
Specifically, the claims will be accepted from Commonwealth citizens who entered the UK before 1973, “in some circumstances” their children or grandchildren who arrived with them, and persons from other countries who entered the UK before 1988.
In case lawful claimants are dead, close family members with proof of suffering could lodge claims.
Though influenced by the Windrush scandal, it could signal another step by the UK to soothe victims of its past immigration and colonial atrocities.
In 2013, the UK government accepted to pay some 5,000 Mau Mau war veterans in Kenya a paltry Sh2.6 billion (then £19.9 million) for its brutal suppression of the independence movement between 1952 and 1960.
But the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, fell short of issuing an apology, only saying the UK government regretted the suffering.
On the Windrush claims, it wasn’t clear just how many people from Kenya could draw benefits from the £300-million-pound scheme.
Shortly after Kenya’s independence, and as Uganda then President Idi Amin targeted businesses owned by Asian immigrants, some of their counterparts in Kenya fled to the UK fearing a similar crackdown, joining thousands from other Commonwealth countries.
A source at the Sports, Culture and Heritage ministry in Nairobi told the Nation that it was true there were “hundreds” of eligible Kenyans. The source said most of them entered the UK for studies and due to fear of persecution.
Kenya’s High Commissioner to the UK Manoah Esipisu told the Nation that his office was yet to determine the number of eligible Kenyans but would encourage anyone who suffered to apply for the compensation.
“It is important that the UK government is keen on righting the wrongs inflicted on the Windrush generation,” he said on Friday.
“We believe that if any Kenyans have a claim under the criteria laid out, they must seek compensation.”
Named after MV Empire Windrush, the ship that brought in the first batch of immigrants from the Caribbean in 1948, the Windrush generation initially drew an apology from UK Prime Minister Theresa May during the 2018 Commonwealth summit in London.
The apology followed pressure by diplomats from the region over the treatment of immigrants who lost jobs, benefits from health insurance and pension as they could not prove citizenship.
Some were unlawfully deported, others detained and another group rendered homeless. Each category of claims will be compensated as listed on www.gov.uk/windrush-compensation.