Race Matters

Government under pressure over treatment of Windrush kids

The British Government is facing intense criticism for its treatment of the children of the Windrush generation after it was claimed that people had been ‘deported in error’.

The Government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policies have left a number of the children of people who came to Britain from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1973 in perilous circumstances. The Migration Observatory at Oxford University estimates that of the 550,000 people who came from the Commonwealth to the UK in this period, around 50,000 may not have official residency documentation.

Anyone who has lived in the UK continuously since January 1973 is legally entitled to live here, but people who have not applied for passports (often because they couldn’t afford to leave the country) may now need to prove they have the right to stay here. Some people moved to the UK before their birth countries became independent, and assumed that they were British.

Uncertainty about their immigration status has seen some threatened with deportation to countries they left as children more than 50 years ago. Others have lost jobs, been made homeless or even denied healthcare.

British resident, Albert Thompson (not his real name), who came to Britain when his nurse mother came to the UK to help save the NHS, has been told he can’t have the radiotherapy his prostate cancer needs unless he comes up with £54,000, because he can’t prove his is entitled to NHS care.

Theresa May came in for sharp criticism after initially refusing a request for a meeting on the issue by 12 Caribbean Commonwealth representatives and a letter signed by over 140 MPs added to the pressure for her to resolve the situation quickly.

Written by David Lammy, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on race and community, the letter has been signed by Jeremy Corbyn, the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, as well as the Conservative MPs Sarah Wollaston, Bob Blackman and Peter Bottomley.

Following intense media pressure, Theresa May, who was Home Secretary when the new immigration laws were brought in, today agreed to meet the Caribbean officials.

The international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, admitted on Radio 4 today (Monday): “We need to do a better job with the process that these individuals are having to go through.

“People who are in that situation, there is absolutely no question of their right to remain and their right to gain access to services such as healthcare.

“My advice to anyone who finds themselves in these circumstances is to contact your local MP … that is what we are there for. People should not be concerned about this. They have the right to stay and we should be reassuring them of that.”

Runnymede’s Kimberly McIntosh said: “It is shameful and abhorrent that this is where we are, 70 years after Windrush. We need a resolution for all of the Windrush Commonwealth long-term residents.”

A petition calling for an amnesty for anyone who arrived in the UK as a child between 1948 and 1971, and requesting that the government lowers the level of documentary proof required from people who have lived here since they were children, has been signed by 100,000 people in six days, triggering a possible debate in the Commons.

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