Bri­tish PM climbs down and agrees to meet Caribbean coun­ter­parts over de­por­ta­tions

Out­cry against UK’s treat­ment of Win­drush gen­er­a­tion of mi­grants unites a wide­spread op­po­si­tion

The National - News - - NEWS WORLD - NOOR NANJI Lon­don

The Bri­tish prime min­is­ter has re­versed a de­ci­sion not to meet Caribbean lead­ers over a threat of de­por­ta­tion hang­ing over thou­sands of mi­grants from Caribbean coun­tries, many of whom ar­rived in the coun­try as chil­dren decades ago and are known as the Win­drush gen­er­a­tion.

They are named af­ter the

Win­drush, one of the first ships to bring Caribbean mi­grants to the UK in 1948 in the after­math of the Sec­ond World War.

Theresa May had ini­tially turned down a re­quest from 12 coun­tries for the mat­ter to be dis­cussed at this week’s Com­mon­wealth sum­mit in Lon­don.

But faced with a grow­ing out­cry that threat­ened to over­shadow the bi­en­nial gath­er­ing of the alliance of the UK and its for­mer colonies, Down­ing Street said yes­ter­day that Mrs May would, af­ter all, meet her coun­ter­parts from Caribbean states to dis­cuss the mat­ter.

The U-turn came af­ter a let­ter signed by 140 MPs, in­clud­ing Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn, urged the gov­ern­ment to find an “im­me­di­ate and ef­fec­tive” re­sponse.

Speak­ing in the House of Com­mons yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, Am­ber Rudd, the Home Sec­re­tary, said a new task force will en­sure that those af­fected will get a “swift re­sponse” when they ap­proach the Home Of­fice for help. She said that fees would be waived.

Ms Rudd apol­o­gised for the treat­ment of some Win­drush mi­grants. “Frankly, some of the ways they have been treated has been wrong, has been ap­palling and I am sorry,” she told MPs in Par­lia­ment.

The Labour MP David Lammy, who had tabled the ur­gent ques­tion on the is­sue in Par­lia­ment, said Ms Rudd’s apol­ogy did not go far enough. He blamed the Home Of­fice, then under Mrs May, for cre­at­ing a “hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment” for im­mi­grants.

“Let us call it as it is. If you lay down with dogs, you get fleas, and that is what has hap­pened with this far-right rhetoric in this coun­try.”

Ms Rudd ad­mit­ted that the Home Of­fice has, at times, been “too con­cerned with pol­icy and strat­egy” and that some­times it “loses sight of in­di­vid­u­als”.

On Twit­ter, Mr Lammy re­jected that re­sponse. “You should be con­sid­er­ing your po­si­tion be­cause of this,” he wrote.

The U-turn took place af­ter the Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter, Caro­line Nokes, ap­peared to ad­mit that some peo­ple had al­ready been de­ported as a re­sult of not hav­ing the right pa­pers.

Asked by an ITV jour­nal­ist if that was the case, she said: “There have been some hor­ren­dous sit­u­a­tions which as a min­is­ter have ap­palled me.”

When pushed to clar­ify whether that meant yes, and if so, how many peo­ple had been de­ported, Ms Nokes replied: “No, I don’t know the num­bers.

“But what I’m de­ter­mined to do go­ing for­ward is say we will have no more of this. We want peo­ple to have con­fi­dence to come to the Home Of­fice. We want to give them a mes­sage of re­as­sur­ance, be­cause I value these peo­ple.”

When asked the same ques­tion later on in Par­lia­ment, Ms Rudd in­sisted she was not aware that any­one had been de­ported be­cause they lacked Win­drush gen­er­a­tion pa­per­work.

Some Win­drush mi­grants have even had their ac­cess to pub­lic ser­vices with­drawn.

A man of Caribbean ori­gin, Al­bert Thomp­son, was told he was not el­i­gi­ble for can­cer treat­ment on the NHS be­cause he could not prove he was legally in the UK.

The Mi­gra­tion Ob­ser­va­tory at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford told

The Na­tional that up to 57,000 of the half mil­lion peo­ple who moved to the UK be­fore the 1971 Im­mi­gra­tion Act came into law could be at risk of be­ing re­moved from the coun­try.

That act en­shrined the right for Com­mon­wealth cit­i­zens to have in­def­i­nite leave to re­main in Britain – but those who had come over be­fore that date of­ten do not now have the pa­pers to prove that they are legally al­lowed to live in the coun­try.

An­other se­nior Con­ser­va­tive MP, Sa­jid Javid, the Com­mu­ni­ties and Hous­ing Sec­re­tary, said he was “deeply con­cerned ... this should not hap­pen to peo­ple who have been long-stand­ing pil­lars of our com­mu­nity. The gov­ern­ment is look­ing into this ur­gently.”

They are now ei­ther pen­sion­ers or are ap­proach­ing that age, and who have spent their work­ing lives pay­ing taxes in the UK, now fac­ing un­cer­tainty.

The dis­pute is an unwelcome dis­trac­tion for Britain, which hopes to use the bi­en­nial Com­mon­wealth sum­mit to bol­ster its bid for free trade deals around the world af­ter the UK leaves the EU next year.

The Bar­ba­dos High Com­mis­sioner, Guy He­witt, said he felt the UK was snub­bing peo­ple from the Caribbean.

“I have held as a great hon­our the fact that I am the first Lon­don-born High Com­mis­sioner for Bar­ba­dos,” he told the BBC. “This is the first time I have felt that the coun­try of my birth is say­ing to peo­ple of my re­gion ‘you are no longer wel­come’.”

Home­land ac­tor David Hare­wood also con­demned the ac­tion.

“All across the Caribbean, for many, Eng­land was the mother coun­try. When she put out the call for nurses and teach­ers to come help re­build af­ter the war they came to as­sist and start new lives,” he said on Twit­ter.

“That they should be turfed out af­ter 50-odd years’ hard work and graft is a dis­grace.”

The is­sue has united al­most ev­ery Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal party, from the Greens to UKIP, as well as dis­parate me­dia voices from The Guardian to The Daily Mail.

Ja­maicans on board the Em­pire Win­drush. Many peo­ple from that gen­er­a­tion of mi­grants are threat­ened with de­por­ta­tion

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