Apol­ogy for mi­grants as UK backs down

The Southland Times - - WORLD -

BRITAIN: The Bri­tish home sec­re­tary has apol­o­gised for the ‘‘ap­palling’’ treat­ment of Win­drush mi­grants from the Caribbean, as the gov­ern­ment’s climb­down on the is­sue threat­ened to over­shadow the open­ing of the Com­mon­wealth Heads of Gov­ern­ment Meet­ing (Chogm) in Lon­don.

Com­mon­wealth mi­grants who were pre­vi­ously as­sured of their place in the United King­dom have been threat­ened with de­por­ta­tion, sacked from their jobs and been de­nied ac­cess to health ser­vices af­ter be­ing un­able to prove their sta­tus. It comes at a time when Britain is at­tempt­ing to strengthen its re­la­tion­ships with the Com­mon­wealth and ex­pand trade links post-Brexit.

Crit­ics pointed out that the Win­drush gen­er­a­tion of im­mi­grants, who have been in Britain for half a cen­tury or more, were be­ing de­nied rights avail­able to Euro­pean Union cit­i­zens.

As well as her apol­ogy yes­ter­day, Home Sec­re­tary Amber Rudd ap­peared to crit­i­cise Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, her pre­de­ces­sor as home sec­re­tary, af­ter she ques­tioned the di­rec­tion of the Home Of­fice.

May was in charge of the Home Of­fice in 2012 when key pro­tec­tions for the Win­drush gen­er­a­tion – named af­ter Em­pire Win­drush, the first ship that brought mi­grants to Britain from Ja­maica in 1948 – were re­moved. Some have since been told they may have to leave, de­spite hav­ing spent the ma­jor­ity of their lives in Britain.

Yes­ter­day May was forced into an about-turn, hours into the Chogm sum­mit, af­ter pre­vi­ously say­ing she would not dis­cuss the Win­drush cases with the as­sem­bled heads of gov­ern­ment. She will now hold talks this week, as the lead­ers pre­pare to de­cide whether the Queen should be re­placed by Prince Charles as the head of the Com­mon­wealth.

Rudd was forced to apol­o­gise in the House of Com­mons, ad­mit­ting that some of the treat­ment of the Win­drush gen­er­a­tion had been ‘‘ap­palling’’, and deny­ing that any­one would be forced to leave.

She an­nounced a task force to help peo­ple prove their right to stay. She said she was ‘‘not aware’’ of any de­por­ta­tions but ap­pealed to jour­nal­ists and cam­paign­ers to come for­ward with ev­i­dence of forced re­movals if they had any.

In an em­bar­rass­ing day for the Home Of­fice, Rudd agreed with crit­ics who said the gov­ern­ment should look again at the way it treated im­mi­grants, amid claims that min­is­ters were too fo­cused on cut­ting num­bers. She said her depart­ment had ‘‘be­come too con­cerned with pol­icy and strat­egy, and some­times loses sight of the in­di­vid­ual’’.

Rudd had ear­lier apol­o­gised to the Win­drush mi­grants, stat­ing: ‘‘Frankly, some of the ways they have been treated has been wrong, has been sorry.’’

There was crit­i­cism from Caribbean na­tions. The High Com­mis­sion for St Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines la­belled the Home Of­fice’s ac­tions ‘‘shame­ful’’. Bar­ba­dos High Com­mis­sioner Guy He­witt said: ‘‘Be­cause [the mi­grants] came from colonies which were not in­de­pen­dent, they thought they were Bri­tish sub­jects.’’

Un­der the 1971 Im­mi­gra­tion Act, en­acted in 1973, all Com­mon­wealth cit­i­zens liv­ing in the UK were given in­def­i­nite leave to re­main. How­ever, the Home Of­fice did not keep a record of those granted leave to re­main or is­sue pa­per­work con­firm­ing it, mean­ing ap­palling, and I am it is dif­fi­cult for the in­di­vid­u­als to now prove they are in the UK legally.

Changes which took place un­der May in 2012, de­signed to curb im­mi­gra­tion and re­move il­le­gal mi­grants, fur­ther com­pli­cated mat­ters by re­quir­ing land­lords, em­ploy­ers and the Na­tional Health Ser­vice to con­firm whether any­one who was not born in the UK had the right to stay.

How­ever, many Win­drush im­mi­grants are older or the chil­dren of peo­ple who have since died, and have strug­gled to prove their right to re­main. This has led to some be­ing sent to de­por­ta­tion cen­tres and only be­ing saved from forced re­moval by cam­paign­ers.

– Tele­graph Group

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Bri­tish Home Sec­re­tary Amber Rudd has apol­o­gised to Caribbean mi­grants threat­ened with de­por­ta­tion.

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