Amber Rudd under pressure to resign as mother of Windrush citizen blames passport battle for son's death

Dexter Bristol spent the last year of his life trying to prove his immigration status - despite moving to the UK in 1968

Lizzy Buchan,Harriet Agerholm,Joe Watts
Wednesday 18 April 2018 21:23
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Dexter Bristol: Member of the Windrush generation died following depression as he tried to prove his British citizenship, claims mother

Amber Rudd is facing new pressure to resign over the Windrush scandal, after it emerged that one of the citizens who arrived from the Caribbean in the 1960s died suddenly while embroiled in turmoil over his immigration status.

Labour MPs said the home secretary should do the “honourable thing” after the news of Dexter Bristol’s death, as his mother blamed the passport battle for her son's demise.

Mr Bristol emigrated to the UK from Grenada in 1968 when he was eight-years-old, but he was sacked from his cleaning job last year and later denied benefits because he was unable to provide documents proving his right to live in the UK.

It comes after Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn clashed in the Commons over the treatment of the Windrush generation, after it emerged many had been denied medical care, lost their jobs or threatened with deportation to Caribbean countries they left as children

Ms Rudd and the prime minister have both already issued grovelling apologies after many of these immigrant children, now grown up, were targeted by Home Office officials despite having lived in Britain for decades.

After Mr Bristol’s mum said the stress caused by his immigration problems was responsible for his death, shadow home secretary Diane Abbot told Channel 4 News: “With previous home secretaries, when things were going as badly wrong as this, they decided to resign.”

Labour MP David Lammy told The Independent: “Dexter Bristol and the tragedy of his story really brings home the human tragedy, that is the tremendous pressure that these Windrush children, the majority of whom are from low income backgrounds, have been under.

“Now the government must lower the burden of proof and just give all Windrush children an exemption to remain in the country.

“Jumping through evidence hoops is entirely unnecessary, particularly now we know that the Home Office destroyed all the landing cards – we need the exemption to bring this to a close.”

Mr Lammy said the government should also now clearly explain how it plans to compensate Windrush children for the hardship they have suffered throughout the process – until now, officials have only said that those affected can raise the issue of compensation with a new Home Office task force.

Asked if Ms Rudd should resign, Mr Lammy said: “In the past when the home secretary or the immigration minister lost control of the their department, the minister did the honourable thing and allowed a new minister to get on with the job.”

Mr Bristol reportedly spent the last year attempting to get documentation allowing him to work. On 31 March, he collapsed on the street outside his house and died. The cause of his death is unknown pending an inquest.

On Wednesday, Sentina Bristol described her son as a “quiet, thoughtful and intelligent man” who had become “very depressed".

She told The Guardian: “I think Theresa May should resign. I don’t enjoy saying that. This situation has to be amended.

“My son is British. We didn't come here illegally.”

The Home Office said Mr Bristol had not been threatened with deportation action and urged his family to get in touch.

A spokesperson said: “Our condolences are with Mr Lewis’s [Bristol] family and friends at this clearly difficult time.

"He made no applications to the Home Office and was not the subject of any removal action, but we would urge his family to get in touch with us so that we can provide any assistance that is required.”

On Wednesday, the Home Office revealed 113 people have called an official hotline with concerns about their migration status.

Ms May’s critics say the implementation of a “hostile environment” policy when she was home secretary, meant child travellers who came to the UK from the Caribbean from the late 1940s to the 1970s now risk being targeted by immigration officers for deportation.

Theresa May apologises to Caribbean diplomats following Windrush deportations

Many of these children travelled on their parents’ passports, meaning they lack a trail of official paperwork and struggle to prove their right to stay in the country.

Landing cards that recorded their arrival in the UK were destroyed by the Home Office in 2010, when Ms May was home secretary, leading to another row about the Home Office’s handling of the matter.

Ms May tried to throw blame on to the previous Labour administration by saying the first decision to destroy the documents was taken in 2009.

But in confused briefings about the situation, her spokespeople later downplayed the significance of that information, by confirming that it was an operational decision that officials may have taken without ministers being aware.

It also came Ms May was accused of misleading parliament over the case of a man denied cancer treatment because of disputes over his immigration status.

Ms May told MPs that Albert Thompson would receive care he is entitled to, after reports that he is being refused it despite having lived in the UK for 44 years sparked outrage.

But his MP, Labour's Chuka Umunna, then told the Commons his constituent was not aware of the news, suggesting that the prime minister had used information about his case for political reasons, before informing the patient.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the crisis had been caused by Ms May’s hostile environment policy, in which people are pushed to actively prove their immigration status.

He told MPs: “This is a shameful episode and the responsibility for it lies firmly at the prime minister’s door.

“Her pandering to bogus immigration targets led to a hostile environment for people who were contributing to our country.

“It led to British citizens being denied NHS treatment, losing their jobs, homes and pensions, thrown in detention centres like criminals and even deported.”

The prime minister was forced to apologise to Caribbean leaders in a meeting at Downing Street on Tuesday, as the Windrush row threatened to overshadow a high-profile summit with Commonwealth ministers.

She also offered a personal apology in the Commons, saying: "These people are British. They are part of us and I want to be absolutely clear that we have no intention of asking anyone to leave who has the right to remain here.

"For those who have mistakenly received letters challenging them I want to apologise to them and I want to say sorry to anyone who has been caused confusion and anxiety as a result of this."

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