Home Of­fice to tackle Win­drush scan­dal

Min­is­ter pledges change over un­doc­u­mented long-term res­i­dents

The Guardian Weekly - - Uk News - Amelia Gen­tle­man Pippa Cr­erar

The home sec­re­tary has an­nounced the cre­ation of a new Home Of­fice team to en­sure no more Win­drushera cit­i­zens will be clas­si­fied as il­le­gal im­mi­grants, and ac­knowl­edged that the Home Of­fice had be­come “too con­cerned with pol­icy and strat­egy” over in­di­vid­u­als.

In a sig­nif­i­cant crit­i­cism of her depart­ment, Am­ber Rudd said the Home Of­fice had be­come too con­cerned with pol­icy and strat­egy and some­times lost sight of the hu­man costs. “This is about in­di­vid­u­als. We have seen the in­di­vid­ual sto­ries and some of them have been ter­ri­ble.”

The Home Of­fice promised that fees to nat­u­ralise or ap­ply for a bio­met­ric card, which can be thou­sands of pounds, would be waived for peo­ple in this cat­e­gory. Rudd said there would be a team of about 20 peo­ple work­ing on the is­sue.

The an­nounce­ment came af­ter im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter Caro­line Nokes said some res­i­dents who an­swered the call to come to the UK to work in es­sen­tial ser­vices in the 1950s and 60s had been de­ported in er­ror to coun­tries they left as chil­dren for not hav­ing the right doc­u­ments.

Rudd said ac­tion would be taken to rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion for any­one who had been wrongly de­ported. She said she was not aware of any­one who had been de­ported and added the gov­ern­ment was try­ing to es­tab­lish this with the Caribbean heads of gov­ern­ment.

She was re­peat­edly chal­lenged over Theresa May’s “hos­tile” im­mi­gra­tion en­vi­ron­ment, and asked if it was time to end the pol­icy. The Tot­ten­ham MP David Lammy, who se­cured the ur­gent de­bate, said this was “a day of na­tional shame”.

“Can she [Rudd] tell the house how many have been de­tained as pris­on­ers in their own coun­try, how many have been de­nied ac­cess to health ser­vices, how many de­nied pen­sions and lost the jobs?” he asked. “It has come about be­cause of a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment pol­icy that was be­gun under her prime min­is­ter.”

Nokes told ITV News be­fore the de­bate: “There have been some hor­ren­dous sit­u­a­tions which as a min­is­ter have ap­palled me.” Asked how many peo­ple had been de­ported, she said: “I don’t know the num­bers. But what I’m de­ter­mined to do 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.”

The prime min­is­ter agreed to meet rep­re­sen­ta­tives of 12 Caribbean coun­tries this week to dis­cuss the prob­lems ex­pe­ri­enced by some Bri­tish res­i­dents of the Win­drush gen­er­a­tion, in an ap­par­ent climb­down.

Down­ing Street said the prime min­is­ter deeply val­ued the con­tri­bu­tion of Com­mon­wealth cit­i­zens who moved to the UK decades ago, and stressed that no­body with a right to be in the UK would be made to leave.

No 10 had ini­tially re­jected a for­mal diplo­matic re­quest from the 12 coun­tries, whose rep­re­sen­ta­tives were in Lon­don for the Com­mon­wealth heads of gov­ern­ment meet­ing, giv­ing the im­pres­sion that the May gov­ern­ment was not tak­ing a suf­fi­ciently se­ri­ous ap­proach to the prob­lem. On Mon­day there was grow­ing out­rage among politi­cians about the sit­u­a­tion, which has af­fected an un­known num­ber of peo­ple who ar­rived in the UK as chil­dren, but never for­mally nat­u­ralised or ap­plied for a Bri­tish pass­port.

Down­ing Street’s change of heart fol­lowed the pub­li­ca­tion of a let­ter sent to May and signed by more than 140 MPs from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum. The let­ter ex­pressed con­cern about the many long-term res­i­dents who have been in­cor­rectly iden­ti­fied as il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Sa­jid Javid, the com­mu­ni­ties sec­re­tary, tweeted on Mon­day: “I’m deeply con­cerned to hear about dif­fi­cul­ties some of the Win­drush gen­er­a­tion are fac­ing with their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus. This should not hap­pen to peo­ple who have been long­stand­ing pil­lars of our com­mu­nity. The gov­ern­ment is look­ing into this ur­gently.”

The prime min­is­ter’s spokesman said: “She deeply val­ues the con­tri­bu­tion made by these and all Com­mon­wealth cit­i­zens who have made a life in the UK and is mak­ing sure the Home Of­fice is of­fer­ing the cor­rect so­lu­tion.

“She is aware many peo­ple are un­likely to have doc­u­ments that are over 40 years old and is clear that no one with the right to be here will be made to leave.”

The spokesman said the Home Of­fice would look at cases with “great sen­si­tiv­ity”, sug­gest­ing the depart­ment could pro­vide ex­tra sup­port to help peo­ple nav­i­gate the sys­tem.

How­ever, most peo­ple in this sit­u­a­tion have not found the Home Of­fice sen­si­tive to their plight. “[May] is go­ing to make sure that we’re of­fer­ing the cor­rect so­lu­tion for in­di­vid­ual sit­u­a­tions. Each sit­u­a­tion may well be dif­fer­ent, but we need to make sure that we have the sup­port there to help peo­ple through the process,” the spokesman said.

State­less ... mi­grants ex­pected the UK to hon­our their birthrights

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