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Windrush scandal rumbles on five years after UK government’s apology

LONDON (AP) — When Thomas Tobierre’s wife, Caroline, died in 2021, he didn’t know how he was going to pay for her funeral.

That’s because he had drained his savings while caught up in a United Kingdom immigration crackdown that improperly targeted legal residents largely from the Caribbean and other parts of the former British Empire.

While a government compensation program eventually covered the cost of his wife’s funeral, Tobierre is still fighting for reimbursement of the 14,000-pound pension he cashed in to make ends meet when no one would hire him because of his disputed right to work.

He isn’t alone.

Five years after the United Kingdom government apologised and promised to compensate those who were affected in what became known as the Windrush scandal, thousands of people who had their lives upended are still battling for what they consider fair settlements.

“They’ve got no compassion,” Tobierre told The Associated Press, referring to the slow-moving compensation claims process.

“They need to be aware that what they’re doing is utterly, grossly wrong.”

The comments underscore the frustration of many people of Caribbean descent who complain the government is dragging its feet even as it prepares to mark the 75th anniversary of Windrush Day, the symbolic start of the mass migration that reshaped the UK after World War II.

Events scheduled around the country will celebrate the contributions Caribbean immigrants have made to Britain since June 22, 1948.

Almost 500,000 people from Britain’s Caribbean outposts came to the UK between 1948 and 1971, invited by the government to help rebuild a nation ravaged by the war.

As citizens of the British Empire, they had the right to live and work in the country. Few documents were required, especially for children, who often travelled on their parent’s passports.

The Windrush scandal first came to light in 2018, when Britain’s news media began reporting on the stories of long-term residents who had lost their jobs, homes and benefits, such as free medical care because they couldn’t produce paperwork proving their right to live in the UK.

Some were detained, and dozens were deported to countries they barely remembered.