Windrush: Government to waive citizenship fees and tests for scandal victims regardless of documentation

Home Secretary Amber Rudd addressed the Commons amid calls for her to resign over the scandal

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Monday 23 April 2018 18:04
Amber Rudd: government will waive citizenship fees and tests for those affected by the Windrush scandal

The government has announced it will effectively fast track citizenship for people affected by the Windrush scandal, even if they lack a full set of documents to prove their status.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said anyone who has suffered from the scandal will be able to apply without facing the usual fees and tests, and will be treated more leniently if they lack needed documentation.

She also confirmed that a new scheme will be established to pay compensation to those who have suffered financial loss from the debacle.

Ms Rudd emphasised her commitment to tackling illegal immigration, but admitted the government’s approach has had an “unintended and sometimes devastating” impact on people from the Windrush generation who are here legally but have struggled to get documentation to prove their status.

As she spoke in the Commons, Ms Rudd was heckled by Labour MPs who shouted that Conservative immigration policy since 2010 was to blame for the fiasco.

Ms Rudd told MPs: “It was never the intention that the Windrush generation should be disadvantaged by measures put in place to tackle illegal immigration.

“These people worked here for decades. In many cases they helped establish the NHS. They paid the taxes, enriched our culture, they are British in all but legal status – and this should never have been allowed to happen.”

Theresa May promises compensation to Windrush children and Caribbean leaders over deportation scandal

Promising to “put this right”, Ms Rudd said fees and language tests will be waived for anyone from the Windrush generation and their children who have been targeted by immigration officials.

She also said that citizenship applications would be allowed, even where people affected in the Windrush generation lacked the adequate pieces of documentary evidence to prove their status.

Ms Rudd confirmed that compensation would be available for those who had suffered loss, as announced by Theresa May last week, saying that a new scheme to deal with claims will be overseen by an “independent” individual.

But shadow home secretary Diane Abbott branded the incident “one of the biggest scandals in the administration of home affairs”.

Speaking in the Commons, Ms Abbott personally blamed the home secretary for the Windrush scandal, telling her that “she allowed it to happen”.

She said: “These cases can’t come as a surprise to her because for some time many of my colleagues on this side of the House have been pursuing individual cases.

“She is behaving as if it is a shock to her that officials are implementing regulations in the way she intended them to be implemented.”

Ms Abbott drew cheers from the Labour benches after telling Ms Rudd “ultimately the buck stops with her”.

​SNP justice and home affairs spokeswoman Joanna Cherry accused Ms Rudd of “desperate firefighting” before suggesting she should stop acting as Theresa May’s “human shield” and resign if she would not pursue a more ethical immigration policy.

Critics say the implementation of the “hostile environment” policy, set out in immigration laws passed while Ms May was at the Home Office, has meant children who came to the UK from the Caribbean as part of the Windrush generation of immigrants from the late 1940s to the 1970s have faced being targeted by immigration officers for deportation.

The policy has seen people needing to prove their citizenship with documentary evidence before being able to work, rent homes or receive medical treatment, even if they have been in the country for many years.

Often children who travelled to the UK on parents’ passports during the Windrush period did not apply for travel documents, and so lack a trail of official paperwork.

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