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Windrush victim says Home Office ‘waiting for us to die off’ before paying compensation

A former soldier who was a victim of the Windrush scandal has said he fears the government is “waiting for us to die off” before it pays compensation.

Conroy Downie, 67, and his daughter Katie Wilson-Downie have helped advise thousands of people affected by the Windrush scandal and have called for the compensation scheme to be run independently instead of by the Home Office.

The scheme was launched five years ago this week by the Home Office after widespread outrage over the Windrush scandal, in which thousands of British people, mainly of Caribbean origin, were wrongly classed as being in the country illegally. This led many to be wrongfully deported, lose their jobs and be denied access to healthcare and housing.

Downie was born in Jamaica and came to the UK as a teenager. He served in the British army and yet faced deportation twice and experienced homelessness due to not having documentation proving his immigration status.

Although Downie received compensation after a three-year wait, his claim has since been reopened because he was underpaid for the years he was homeless. Downie explained that his homelessness was caused by not having the immigration documentation he needed to get help from the council for housing.

“When I joined the British army to contribute my part to the crown and country, in my mind’s eye I thought that … for my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren, I hoped society would give them a fair crack of the whip,” he said.

“I think the system failed us. The system failed the service of the black soldiers, it failed the Windrush generation.”

The great-grandfather said he and his daughter had met thousands of people to raise awareness of the compensation scheme, and he said people affected “don’t trust the Home Office”.

“They need to take the compensation scheme off the Home Office and give it to an independent body,” he said.

The Home Office has faced criticism because of delays in paying out the compensation and the complexities of the application process.

Downie said: “They’re not very good at what they’re doing now. It’s a failure, it’s disgusting. I think they are waiting for us to die off.”

The charity Age UK said the delay in receiving compensation was “unacceptable, especially given that for many of the older applicants time is not on their side”.

The charity’s director Caroline Abrahams said: “It’s high time everyone affected received the justice they are due before it’s too late and more people go to their graves uncompensated for the enormous harm they and their families have experienced through the years.”

The Home Office said it was committed to “righting the wrongs of the Windrush scandal and making sure those affected receive the compensation they rightly deserve”.