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May apologises to Caribbean leaders for Windrush injustice

PICTURED: Prime Minister Theresa May with Commonwealth leaders, Foreign Ministers and High Commissioners at 10 Downing Street, London

THE PRIME Minister has issued an apology to Caribbean leaders following a huge outcry over a growing number of cases of British residents who came from the Caribbean with their parents as part of a post-war rebuilding effort who have been threatened with deportation or have been deported following a recent tightening of the immigration rules designed to identify illegal immigrants.

The row deepened after Immigration minister Caroline Nokes appeared to suggest that some individuals may already have been deported in error.

In a meeting this week with Commonwealth leaders from nine countries, including Jamaican premier Andrew Holness and Guy Hewitt, the high commissioner for Barbados, Theresa May apologised that some blameless Commonwealth citizens had lived under the shadow of deportation for years or been refused access to free NHS treatment.

During the meeting she acknowledged that the Windrush generation had helped to build the country that Britain is today and said: “I want to dispel any impression that my government is in some sense clamping down on Commonwealth citizens particularly those from the Caribbean who’ve built a life here.

"I take this issue very seriously. The Home Secretary apologised in the House of Commons for any anxiety caused and I want to apologise to you today.”

May continued: “This issue has come to light because of measures that we introduced to ensure that only those with a legal right to live here can access things like the NHS and rented accommodation. And this has resulted in some people – through no fault of their own – now needing to be able to evidence their immigration status. The overwhelming majority of the Windrush generation do have the documents they need but we’re working hard to help those who do not.”

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

Thousands of people from the Caribbean who came over the UK as part of the Windrush generation have had their right to live, work and access services in the UK threatened or called into question because they lacked this documentation.

May had initially refused to meet with Caribbean leaders at this week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to discuss the issue but reversed that decision following widespread condemnation of the government.
Number 10 said that the prime minister was “not aware” of the request for a meeting from Caribbean leaders.

In an earlier statement a spokesperson for Mrs May said: "She deeply values the contribution made by these and all Commonwealth citizens who have made a life in the UK and is making sure the Home Office is offering the correct solution for individual situations.

"She's aware that many people are unlikely to have documents that are over 40 years old and she is clear that no one with the right to be here will be made to leave.”

More than 100 MPs from all parties wrote to the Prime Minister expressing their anger at the treatment of the Windrush immigrants.

Various petitions have also sprung-up adding weight to calls for leniency. For example, a petition on the government’s website launched by former Hackney councillor Patrick Vernon OBE has attracted over 115,000 signatures.

In a powerful speech in the Commons, Tottenham MP David Lammy condemned the Home Office’s push towards a “hostile environment”.

He said: “This is a day of national shame, and it has come about because of a ‘hostile environment’ and a policy that was begun under her Prime Minister. Let us call it as it is: if you lay down with dogs, you get fleas, and that is what has happened with the far-right rhetoric in this country.”

Home Secretary Amber Rudd apologised to members of the Windrush generation who have been subjected to what she described as "appalling" treatment by the government.

She also announced the creation of a new Home Office task force to speed up the regularisation of the immigration status of people who arrived in the UK as long ago as the 1940s.

Ms Rudd said: "I do not want any of the Commonwealth citizens who are here legally to be impacted in the way they have. Frankly, some of the ways they have been treated has been wrong, has been appalling and I am sorry. That's why I am setting up a new area in my department to ensure that we have a completely new approach to how their situation is regularised."

The home secretary confirmed she will waive the fee for this service, which will ensure people have the right documentation.

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