Home Office to tackle Windrush scandal
Minister pledges change over undocumented long-term residents
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.
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