Members of the Windrush generation will be refused British citizenship, the government has announced.
In a statement issued late on Friday afternoon, home secretary Sajid Javid said a number of Caribbean nationals who came to Britain between 1948 and 1971 would not qualify for citizenship because they failed to meet the “necessary good character requirement” due to committing criminal offences.
Windrush citizens are supposed to be afforded the same rights as British citizens, so the announcement is likely to prompt renewed accusations that they are effectively awarded second-class status.
The Home Office said those in the UK not granted citizenship would still have the right to remain, provided they could obtain the relevant evidence of their residency.
Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said it was scandalous that the Home Office should subject the Windrush generation to conditions that other British citizens are not.
Mr Javid said refusals would also be issued to those who had applied for documentation from abroad but been found to be ineligible as they were not able to provide sufficient evidence that they were settled in the UK before 1 January 1973.
He said refusal decisions were only taken after “substantial assurance” had taken place and said individuals could request a free review of the decision if they disagreed.
But legal experts told The Independent that the absence of independent legal advice and a proper appeal route to those refused made it impossible to know whether the decisions were fair or not.
Chai Patel, legal policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said: "You can’t have any faith that these rejections are valid unless those people have a chance to get independent legal advice and appeals – and neither of those things are in place.”
He said there was a lot that needed clarifying around the Windrush taskforce, notably with regards to the numbers of people being granted indefinite leave to remain, and what would happen to those who were not.
"There are clearly going to be people refused not just citizenship but the right to stay as well," Mr Patel said.
“What they’re not saying is how many people they’ve decided don’t have a right to be here at all and what they’re going to do when they say that to people.
“They’re refusing citizenship, but what about status? How many people have you said you can’t have any status off the back of this helpline, and what’s happened to them?"
In his update to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Mr Javid also announced that 2,121 people had successfully applied to become British nationals since the Windrush Scheme was established at the end of May, with 2,398 also able to secure documentation confirming their right to be in the UK.
He said: “The Windrush generation have helped build this country as they themselves have built a life here. I am appalled by what some people have been through but am delighted that our taskforce is helping so many people to establish their right to be here and gain British citizenship.
“We are doing all we can to gather the information needed to enable applications to be processed successfully and quickly. We are looking for reasons to grant rather than refuse, but we need to ensure that only those who should be benefiting from this scheme are benefiting.
“All refusals have followed careful and deliberate consideration. No decision has been taken lightly and applicants will be able to have the refusal reviewed free of charge if they disagree.”
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