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Windrush deportation controversy forces Amber Rudd to apologise for 'appalling' treatment of immigrants

Home Secretary makes extraordinary criticism of Theresa May’s running of the Home Office - which became 'too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 16 April 2018 19:47 BST
David Lammy demands Amber Rudd apologise to Windrush generation: How many have been detained, denied NHS, denied pensions, lost their jobs?

The plight of members of the Windrush generation wrongly threatened with deportation was branded a “day of national shame”, after the home secretary apologised for their treatment.

Amber Rudd admitted to “appalling” cases of people denied health treatment, stripped of their jobs and faced with being sent to countries they left as children, decades ago, and have never returned to.

Amid growing cross-party condemnation, she astonished MPs by saying the Home Office did not know if any Windrush immigrants had been wrongly deported under the crackdown.

A limited U-turn will now see people offered help to prove their immigration status within two weeks – with their fees waived.

Ms Rudd also made extraordinary criticism of Theresa May’s running of the Home Office, warning it became “too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual”.

It was Ms May who, as home secretary, launched the self-described “hostile environment” for possible illegal immigrants – which targeted the Windrush generation.

A key protection was removed in the 2014 Immigration Act, requiring the NHS and employers to take action in the absence of documents proving a right to live in the UK.

In the Commons, a furious David Lammy led fierce criticism, asking Ms Rudd: “Can she tell the house how many have been detained as prisoners in their own country, how many have been denied access to health services, how many denied pensions and lost their jobs?”

“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 tell it like 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.”

Answering an urgent question, Ms Rudd said she would meet High Commissioners from Caribbean countries urgently to “find out if there are any such people who have been removed”.

“It is her department that has deported them – she should know the number,” Mr Lammy told her.

Earlier, Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister, appeared to concede that deportations had taken place, telling ITV News: “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.”

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said the Government must “consider the question of compensation”, adding: “What a disgrace it is that this government has treated Commonwealth migrants in this way.”

Ms Rudd said there should be no doubt that people who had arrived in Britain decades ago – often as children – “have the right to reside here lawfully”.

“Some of the way they have been treated has been wrong, has been appalling, and I am sorry,” she told MPs.

And she added: “In accordance with my wishes today, there will be no removals or detention as part of any assistance to help former Commonwealth citizens get their proper documentation in place.”

Ms Rudd announced a taskforce of about 20 people, with the aim of ensuring everyone receives the paperwork they need to confirm their immigration status within two weeks.

The fees involved in going through the process – which is £229 for each application – would be scrapped.

Growing numbers of people have been affected by the new rules, losing access to healthcare, their jobs, or made homeless because they lack sufficient paperwork to prove they have the right to be in the UK.

When it was revealed that Albert Thompson, a London cancer patient had been asked to pay £54,000 for treatment – despite having lived in the UK for 44 years – the prime minister refused to intervene.

Although anyone living in the UK continuously since before January 1 1973 is legally entitled to live in the UK, but proving it has been difficult for people who have not applied for passports.

Some people moved before the countries they were born in became independent, and assumed they were British.

The Migration Observatory at Oxford University estimates some 50,000 Commonwealth-born people in the UK, who arrived before 1971, may not yet have regularised their residency status.

Before the announcement, Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, tweeted: “I’m deeply concerned to hear about difficulties some of the Windrush generation are facing with their immigration status. This should not happen to people who have been longstanding pillars of our community. The government is looking into this urgently.”

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