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Windrush generation problems likely to be 'unforeseen consequence' of 'hostile immigration' policy, former Home Office official says

Remarks come amid escalating pressure on the PM over the government’s handling of the Windrush scandal

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Friday 20 April 2018 10:21 BST
Former Home Office official: Windrush generation problems likely to be 'unforeseen consequence' of 'hostile immigration' policy

Problems experienced by members of the Windrush generation as a result of the “hostile immigration” policy are likely to have been an “unforeseen consequence”, according to the former director-general of immigration enforcement at the Home Office.

The remarks come amid escalating pressure on Theresa May and Amber Rudd, the home secretary, over the government’s handling of the Windrush scandal, with stories flooding in of individuals from that generation being denied basic services and threatened with deportation.

David Wood, the former director general of Home Office immigration enforcement between 2013 and 2014, also told BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme that is was “very unlikely” members of the Windrush generation would have been deported due to “safeguards”.

Asked whether he considered how the immigration policies being introduced at the time would impact these people, he replied: “I suspect that is clearly an unforeseen consequence of the policy. Just to put it into context I think the Windrush people when they arrived were told to register in the UK. Some of them for lots of reasons probably didn’t.

“It’s those who didn’t register initially and who haven’t registered since and who haven’t applied for a passport – so they are probably a small number. I suspect they were an unforeseen consequence, I’m not sure.”

But Mr Wood’s comments are likely to be met with scepticism after The Independent revealed that Ms May, the then-home secretary, ignored repeated warnings from her department over potential discrimination and hardship caused by the hostile environment policies aimed at illegal immigrants.

Four years ago, an internal impact assessment found that plans to demand immigration documents from tenants could make it harder for foreign nationals to find homes, and provoke discrimination.

In a second warning in 2015, while Ms May was still the home secretary, her department assessed how the new Immigration Bill could deny migrants housing and driving licences or see their bank accounts frozen.

“Some non-UK born older people may have additional difficulties in providing original documentation,” the document said. “Some may have had their immigration records destroyed. Some will have originally come into the country under old legislation but may have difficulty in evidencing this.”

Pressed on why the consequences on the Windrush generation were “unforeseen”, Mr Wood continued: “I guess in a system where there are millions and millions of records, there’s probably tens of thousands of checks everyday that go through those systems, there are sometimes problems.

“There are safeguards in the system so this is regrettable, it’s very poor this has happened. It’s very, very unlikely that one of these Windrush individuals would have been deported from the UK on the basis of these policies.”

'They were going to send me back to Jamaica. I’ve never been to Jamaica': Son of Windrush immigrant threatened with deportation

Also appearing on the Today programme the former Liberal Democrat minister during the coalition, David Laws, said the “hostile immigration” for immigrants was introduced in 2012 after a “cavalier pledge” at the 2010 election to cut migrant numbers in response to fears surrounding a surge in Ukip support.

There was “real worry“ among Lib Dems in the coalition, as well as some Tories, about several immigration proposals, including that landlords carry out checks on their tenants, he said.

Laws, who was Cabinet Office minister from 2012 until losing his Yeovil seat at the 2015 election, said: “Immigration control has been a big priority for the Conservative Party, David Cameron and Theresa May, going into the 2010 election.

“They had made this rather cavalier pledge to reduce net immigration into the low tens of thousands without really having policies to deliver on that.

“Then, of course, the political context in 2012 and 2013 was a rising Ukip vote in the polls, which David Cameron was very worried about in terms of the impact on Conservative support.

As of 3pm on Thursday, the Home Office was looking into 232 cases as a result of calls to a helpline set up earlier this week after the Windrush furore erupted.

“Many of these cases are people with questions or concerns which may well turn out not to need any action taking, others do not need our help in gathering evidence to confirm their status,” a spokesperson said.

It was also revealed that the first four people whose cases have gone through the dedicated team of officials have been given permanent status.

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