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15th August 2018

Prime Minister May Apologises for the Racist Maltreatment of Windrush Generation!

By a press release (18/04/18)

Theresa May has apologised to 12 Caribbean leaders for the treatment of Windrush citizens promising that no one would be deported.


Prime Minister promises she will listen to individuals’ concerns and ensure no one is deported. The prime minister told a meeting with Caribbean leaders she wanted to dispel any impression that her government was “in some sense clamping down on Commonwealth citizens, particularly those from the Caribbean”.  (Photo: May welcomes Jamaican Prime Minister, Andrew Holness to No 10).

“I take this issue very seriously. The Home Secretary apologised in the House of Commons yesterday for any anxiety caused. And I want to apologise to you today. Because we are genuinely sorry for any anxiety that has been caused,” she said.

May added: “Those who arrived from the Caribbean before 1973 and lived here permanently without significant periods of time away in the last 30 years have the right to remain in the UK, as do the vast majority of long-term residents who arrived later. I don’t want anybody to be in any doubt about their right to remain here in the United Kingdom.”

She pledged to compensate anyone left out of pocket after it emerged that some people had lost their jobs and benefit entitlements, and others had had to take specialist legal advice to avoid deportation.

She added: “We would also like to reassure you that there will be no removals or detention as part of any assistance to help these citizens get their proper documentation in place.”

Theresa May with the Jamaican prime minister, Andrew Holness, at Downing Street on Tuesday. After the meeting, the Jamaican Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, said he accepted May’s apology, stating: “I believe that the right thing is being done at this time.”

Asked if he was satisfied that nobody had been deported as a result of UK paperwork issues, Holness said: “I asked the direct question of the prime minister. She was not able to say definitively that that was not the case.

“But, they are assuring us that they are checking the records that they have to make sure that that is not the case. If persons were deported, they have told us that they have established a hotline ... and they are encouraging persons who may fit that category to call it.”

No 10 had initially refused to meet the leaders but a furore over the treatment of the affected people, who predominantly arrived in the UK as children from the Caribbean, led the home secretary, Amber Rudd, to apologise to the Commons on Monday.

Speaking earlier in the day, the Cabinet Office minister, David Lidington, blamed officials for May’s original refusal to meet the Caribbean leaders. “As soon as this issue was brought personally to the attention of the prime minister yesterday, she countermanded the decision of people in her office and agreed to the meeting,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Lidington also said the government was still not certain whether any Windrush-era citizens in the UK had been wrongly deported, reiterating that their treatment “had gone badly wrong”. (Photo: Home Secretary Amber Rudd with David Lamin).

“I talked to the home secretary about this last night, and the position is that we have no information. We do not know of any cases where somebody who has been deported is in this category,” Lidington said.

“The Home Secretary Amber Rudd, to double-check this, has asked her officials to work through the records methodically, just to check whether anything has gone appallingly wrong in that way, and then we can put it right.”

The Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, later tweeted: “It’s unacceptable for ministers to claim they don’t know how many Windrush citizens have been deported. A simple matter of checking Home Office records, surely?” Amber Rudd delivered an unprecedented apology in the Commons on Monday for the “appalling” actions of her department.

The home secretary announced the creation of a new Home Office team, staffed by 20 officials, dedicated to ensuring that Commonwealth-born long-term UK residents would no longer find themselves classified as being in the UK illegally. She also promised that cases would be resolved within two weeks and application fees would be waived.

Lidington denied that the “hostile environment” approach to immigration enforcement put in place by May when she was home secretary had helped trigger the problem, insisting it was the result of decisions made over decades.

“It was clearly right that the home secretary recognised that things had gone badly wrong in respect of this group of people and made a full formal apology to parliament and the public about this yesterday,” he said.

The Guardian has been documenting a growing scandal over the past five months affecting an unknown number of people who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean as children, often on parents’ or siblings’ passports, but were never formally naturalised or hadn’t applied for a British passport. The British government had invited people from the region to work in the UK after the second world war.

Courtesy: Peter Walker and Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian Newspaper

Theresa May's 'Hostile Environment' at Heart of Windrush Scandal

Theresa May told the Telegraph in 2012 she wanted to create a ‘hostile environment for illegal migration’. Theresa May was two years into her job as home secretary when she made her strategy explicit, telling the Telegraph in 2012 her aim “was to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration”.

The outcry over the treatment of the Windrush generation of migrants in Britain legally, but sometimes without the paperwork to prove it, has exposed the scale of that strategy. (Photo: Ship that brought the West Indians to UK).

The hostile environment created by new legislation and regulation has meant migrants do not face border officials only when they enter the country for the first time, but as a constant part of daily life. They must prove their immigration status whenever they try to rent a property, open a bank account or access the health services. Landlords and employers become immigration enforcers – or risk hefty fines.

At the Home Office, May was tasked with delivering David Cameron’s election promise that immigration would be reduced to the tens of thousands, a pledge that has still yet to be realised.

May’s decision to repeat the promise in the June general election campaign and her refusal to discount international students from the net migration figures – despite discomfort over both issues from her cabinet colleagues – underlines how much controlling immigration is not an electoral strategy but an ideological driver for the prime minister.

Labour MP David Lammy, who has led the charge in parliament calling for justice for the Windrush families who have been unfairly targeted, suggested the atmosphere of distrust was a feature, not a bug, in the system.

“It is public policy to send ‘go home’ vans around areas of high immigration like my own, to send immigration officers to churches that offer help to refugees, to make concerted efforts to establish immigration tourism as a significant feature of our health service when it is not and to deny access to healthcare for people with cancer,” he said. “There is also the huge cost involved, it can be £40,000 for one family, constantly having to seek renewed leave to remain.”

Home Office destroyed Windrush landing cards, says ex-staffer Sarah Teather, a former Liberal Democrat MP who was minister for children and families, revealed in 2013 that an internal working group on immigration was initially named the Hostile Environment Working Group, with its name only changed following Lib Dem objections.

Teather, who is now the director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, said: “Theresa May was determined to transform things. She was proud of wanting to generate a really hostile environment.

“The Home Office has a culture of enforcement and disbelief which runs deep into the walls, but it is politically led. It’s a culture from the top, and it has been a bit rich for the home secretary, Amber Rudd, to blame civil servants. When you’ve had a Conservative home secretary that long, you cannot moan when civil servants deliver those policies.”

Apologies to the Windrush generation by Rudd and the prime minister also made clear ministers and officials believed the migrants’ poor treatment to be an anomaly. Home Office guidance says the rules are “a proportionate measure to maintain effective immigration control.”

Sent out to answer media questions about the affair on Tuesday morning, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington denied that May’s tough approach in the Home Office had caused the crisis. (Photo: The oldies who have been victimised unjustly).

Downing Street said the strategy was intended to target illegal immigrants alone, some of whom had been working in conditions akin to slavery. The prime minister’s spokesman said the rules were “specifically designed to deal with the problem of illegal immigration and issues such as people working illegally and in the black market in conditions that are not suitable for anyone.”

Asked whether the government stood by the hostile environment programme, he said: “The system was put in place to deter illegal immigration and to prevent people who didn’t have the right to be in the country to access public services. It’s in the country’s interests to have a secure immigration system in relation to these cases.”

However, campaigners, MPs and legal experts say the treatment of those Windrush-era Caribbean migrants was a logical consequence of the hostile environment strategy. Colin Yeo, an immigration barrister from Garden Court chambers, said the strategy had been applied without much consideration of the social consequences.

“We now effectively have in-country immigration controls, carried out by private citizens on each other,” he said. “It’s done through fear of penalties, or it can be done through bureaucracy, the system of checks in healthcare or education which are so onerous.

“Black and ethnic minority people are disproportionally affected too – a landlord will ask for your papers if you look or sound foreign. We know this is happening in practice.”

Nick Timothy, May’s adviser at the Home Office and her joint chief of staff at No 10 until the last election, criticised the treatment, but said: “The solution lies in formalising their status, not abandoning sensible policies to limit illegal immigration.”

Yeo said limited resources were also a factor, meaning the Home Office was unable to carry out large numbers of forced removals and the hostile environment was in part about incentivising people to “self-deport” by making their lives unpleasant.

“That seems to be the rationale, but there is no evidence that is the case and the number of voluntary departures also seems to be falling,” he said.

When the system is enforced, errors can be widespread. A recent report found one in 10 bank account refusals because of immigration checks occurred in error. A Law Society report last week found almost 50% of UK immigration and asylum appeals were upheld, which it said was “clear evidence of serious flaws in the way visa and asylum applications are being dealt with”.

The embarrassment over the Windrush cases is unlikely to herald a long-term change of heart, Yeo said. “It is embedded in law, May would have to repeal her landmark legislation as home secretary. I very much doubt they will reverse course.”

Courtesy: Jessica Elgot Political correspondent @jessicaelgot, The Guardian


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