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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Home Secretary sorry for 'appalling' treatment of Windrush generation in citizenship row

Written by Nick Lester, Andrew Woodcock and David Wilcock

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has offered an apology in the Commons to members of the so-called Windrush generation who have been subjected to what she described as "appalling" treatment by the Government.

Ms Rudd announced the creation of a new taskforce in the Home Office to speed up the regularisation of the immigration status of people who arrived in the UK as long ago as the 1940s.

Her announcement came after Downing Street said Prime Minister Theresa May wanted to ensure that "no-one with the right to be here will be made to leave".

And Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said he was "deeply concerned" at challenges to the immigration status of people who were "long-standing pillars of our community".

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes appeared to suggest that some individuals may already have been deported in error.

But Ms Rudd told the House of Commons she was not aware of "any specific cases" and would raise the matter with high commissioners at a meeting this week.

Answering an urgent question from Labour's David Lammy, the Home Secretary told MPs: "I am concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy, and sometimes lose sight of the individual.

"This is about individuals, and we have seen the individual stories, and they have been, some of them, terrible to hear, and that is why I have acted."

Mrs May is to meet her counterparts from Caribbean states in the margins of the Commonwealth summit in London on Tuesday amid growing anger about individuals facing the threat of deportation and being denied access to healthcare due to UK paperwork issues.

Ms Rudd was challenged in the Commons over an interview in which Ms Nokes appeared to confirm that some Windrush migrants had been wrongly deported.

"There have been some horrendous situations which as a minister have appalled me," Ms Nokes told ITV News in response to a question about deportations.

"I don't know the numbers, but what I am determined to do going forward is to say we will have no more of this."

Announcing the new taskforce, Ms Rudd said: "I do not want any of the Commonwealth citizens who are here legally to be impacted in the way they have.

"Frankly, some of the ways they have been treated has been wrong, has been appalling and I am sorry.

"That's why I am setting up a new area in my department to ensure that we have a completely new approach to how their situation is regularised."

Ms Rudd said fees for sorting out the paperwork of those affected would be waived so they can have their status confirmed free of charge.

The Home Secretary added that she had given instructions that there be "no removals or detention" of Commonwealth citizens under the new assistance scheme.

Mrs May's official spokesman said the Prime Minister "deeply values" the contribution made by Commonwealth citizens in the UK, and is "clear that no-one with the right to be here will be made to leave".

The announcement came after a cross-party group of 140 MPs wrote to Mrs May calling for an "immediate and effective" response to problems faced by members of the Windrush generation.

The letter to the PM was co-ordinated by David Lammy, chairman of the Race and Community All Party Parliamentary Group, and has the backing of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Conservative MPs such as Sarah Wollaston.

Former minister Mr Lammy said it was "inhumane and cruel" for so many in the Windrush generation "to have suffered so long in this condition".

He told MPs: "This is a day of national shame and it has come about because of a hostile environment policy that was begun under her Prime Minister.

"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."


Tory former home secretary Michael Howard has raised his "concern and bewilderment" at the treatment of members of the Windrush generation as a government frontbencher admitted it was "shameful".

Condemning the "lamentable state of affairs" faced by some long-term immigrants to Britain from the Caribbean, the Conservative peer demanded to know what had led to the citizenship debacle, causing "confusion and anxiety".

Former children's television presenter and Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Benjamin strongly criticised the "distressing, inconsiderate and heartless situation" and said people were being treated as "criminals".

Labour former minister Lord Boateng also expressed his fury at the "shameful action".

Their comments came amid growing anger about individuals facing the threat of deportation and being denied access to healthcare due to UK paperwork issues.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Tory former leader Lord Howard of Lympne said he viewed the "lamentable state of affairs with a mixture of concern and bewilderment".

Pressing the Government spokesman, Lord Howard said: "Can he shed any light on the circumstances in which the confusion and anxiety...has been allowed to arise in the first place?"

Responding from the frontbench, the Earl of Courtown said the situation had arisen because of some people being "undocumented".

Lady Benjamin said she had come to Britain in 1960 as a "Windrush generation child", but "luckily" on her own passport.

"Otherwise I too would be having to prove my status," she said.

The Liberal Democrat peer added: "Many who travelled on their parents passport are now, due to unbelievable incompetence, lack of common sense and compassion, being treated as criminals and are asked to provide evidence of their immigration status."

She said recent events "threaten to sour celebrations" on the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush ship, which brought the first wave of immigrants from the Commonwealth.

"There's a feeling of resentment, rejection and mistrust," she said.

Lady Benjamin called on the Government to "make amends" by creating a Windrush Day on June 22 "to prove that we are valued".

Lord Courtown said there was a need to "build up as picture" of a person to enable individuals to remain.

Lord Boateng said: "These were children. They did not come here of their own volition. They came here because their parents were here.

"But they have lived their lives in this country. They have paid their taxes in this country. They have helped this country grow and develop to the successful, multi-racial democracy that it is.

"They have been insulted and they were insulted as children."

His generation had been described as "wide-eyed, grinning piccaninnies" by the right-wing politician Enoch Powell in his infamous Rivers Of Blood speech.

Lord Boateng said: "That's how we were described.

"And to that insult in their childhood has now come this injury in their old age."

Demanding urgent, full redress, he added: "Nothing less will do. Anything less makes us complicit in this shameful action".

Lord Courtown said he understood the concerns raised and pointed to assurances given by the Home Secretary in response to "this shameful exercise".

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) John Stillwell / PA Wire.