UK: Minister apologises for appalling treatment of Windrush-era citizens

This situation is below all level of human rights. I cannot believe it happened in 2018 in the United Kingdom. Shameful!

Amber Rudd 'sorry' for appalling treatment of Windrush-era citizens

Minister criticises Home Office and promises cases will be resolved in two weeks

The British home secretary has delivered an unprecedented apology for the “appalling” actions of her own department towards Windrush-era citizens, acknowledging that the Home Office had “lost sight of individuals” and become “too concerned with policy”.
In the face of mounting criticism, Amber Rudd announced the creation of a new Home Office team, staffed by 20 officials, dedicated to ensuring that Commonwealth-born long-term UK residents will no longer find themselves classified as illegal immigrants. She promised that cases would be resolved within two weeks and application fees would be waived.
In a highly unusual acknowledgement that the government’s hostile immigration policy is having a catastrophic effects on individuals’ lives, Rudd said: “Frankly, how they have been treated has been wrong – has been appalling – and I am sorry. That is 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.”
She made a significant criticism of her own department, adding: “I am concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual. This is about individuals, and we have heard the individual stories, some of which have been terrible to hear.”
She said she was very sorry for the anxiety suffered by numerous people who arrived in the UK as children after newly tightened immigration laws required them to prove that they were here legally.
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The Guardian has been documenting a growing scandal over the past five months affecting an unknown number of people who arrived in the UK as children from the Caribbean as children (often on parents’ or siblings’ passports) but were never formally naturalised or hadn’t applied for a British passport. 
Because newly tightened immigration rules mean individuals are increasingly required to show documents proving a right to be in the UK before they can take up work, rent properties, access healthcare, or claim benefits, many have lost their jobs or been made homeless or refused urgent healthcare. Some have been sent to immigration removal centres or threatened with deportation.
A colleague of Rudd’s, immigration minister Caroline Nokes, earlier appeared to suggest that people had been deported in error back to countries they left as children for not having the right documents. Rudd said she was unable to confirm if this was the case, and had asked Caribbean diplomats if they were aware of mistaken deportations.
Rudd’s announcement came after the prime minister was forced into an embarrassing U-turn over Downing Street’s refusal to schedule a meeting requested by 12 Caribbean heads of government to discuss the problem at a meeting of the Commonwealth heads of government (Chogm), which opened in London on Monday.
The rebuffal was described as “most unfortunate” by the Barbados high commissioner, just before the meeting began. Within hours, Theresa May’s spokesman announced that she had agreed to set up a meeting after all. He added that the prime minister “deeply values” the contribution the Windrush generation have made, but the outrage over the initial refusal overshadowed the opening of the conference.
The decision to back down on the refusal to schedule a Chogm meeting on the issue followed rising anger from politicians of all parties. Over 140 MPs from all parties sent a letter to May, expressing concern about the incorrect classification of many Commonwealth-born, long-term British as “illegal immigrants” and calling on her to find a “swift resolution of this growing crisis”.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid said he was “deeply concerned” about the Windrush scandal, adding ”this should not happen to people who have been longstanding pillars of our community.”
Rudd’s announcement came in response to an urgent question called by Labour’s David Lammy who said it was “inhumane and cruel” for so many in the Windrush generation “to have suffered so long in this condition”.
'National day of shame': David Lammy criticises treatment of Windrush generation – video
“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 call it as 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,” he said.
“Can she [Rudd] tell the house how many have been detained as prisoners in their own country? Can she tell us how many have been denied healthcare under the National Health Service, how many have been denied pensions and how many have lost their jobs?” he asked.
The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, expressed scepticism about whether the new Home Office team would really resolve the problems faced by hundreds of people. “How much confidence can people have in the special team when people with lawyers have been unable to resolve their situations?” she asked. 
She also called on the government to apologise to those people wrongfully detained. Neither Paulette Wilson, 61 nor Anthony Bryan, 60, who were both told they were illegal immigrants and detained in immigration removal centres – despite each having lived and worked in this country for over half a century – have had any apology from the Home Office for their treatment.
Until now individuals have struggled to provide the evidence required by the Home Office to resolve their status problems – often unable to submit the recommended four pieces of documentary evidence for every year spent in the UK, not least because relatives have died, schools have shut down and records have been destroyed.
Decades of national insurance records have not been deemed sufficient proof, but Rudd said that would change, and Home Office staff would attempt to work with other departments to source paperwork.
“The team will be tasked with helping these applicants demonstrate they are entitled to live in the UK and will be tasked with resolving cases within two weeks of the evidence being provided. They will work across government to help these applicants prove they have been working and living in the UK,” she said.
Satbir Singh, the CEO of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, welcomed the new team. “But that on its own is not enough: the Home Office must commit to a system which treats affected people with fairness, humanity and flexibility,” he added. 
“In the past few days we’ve witnessed the culmination of years of government policy explicitly designed to turn us into a hostile society and which have made the Home Office into an island of inhumanity and incompetence. This is the first time that the government has been forced to account for these deliberate decisions. We hope it marks the start of a conversation about how we treat all those who seek to make a life here.”

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Windrush-era citizens row: timeline of key events

Row over rights of Commonwealth citizens to remain in UK was given impetus by Guardian articles last year

Tuesday 28 November 2017 Paulette Wilson, who has lived in the UK for more than half a century, speaks to the Guardian about her treatment at the hands of the Home Office. The government had threatened to send her to Jamaica – a country she has not seen since she left it at the age of 10.

Friday 1 December 2017 Anthony Bryan becomes the second of the Windrush generation facing deportation under Theresa May’s hostile environment policy to tell his story to the Guardian. Bryan’s deportation to Jamaica was only cancelled at the last moment after a legal intervention. “They don’t tell you why they are holding you and they don’t tell you why they let you out. You feel so depressed,” he said.

Thursday 11 January 2018 The government relents in Wilson’s case, finally giving her official leave to remain in the UK. During her more than 50 years in the UK, Wilson had served food to MPs as a cook in the House of Commons and raised a family. But the Home Office did not initially believe she was in the country legally.

Wednesday 21 February 2018 “It’s an appalling place to live. I’m a proud man; I’m embarrassed at my age to be living like this,” Renford McIntyre tells the Guardian as the former NHS driver, who arrived in the UK in 1968, details how he has been left homeless, living in an industrial unit after being told he was not allowed to work and was not eligible for any government support.

Thursday 22 February 2018 The issue begins to snowball, as senior Caribbean diplomats urge the Home Office to adopt a “more compassionate” approach towards retirement-age Commonwealth citizens. “In this system one is guilty before proven innocent rather than the other way around,” the Jamaican high commissioner to London, Seth George Ramocan, says.

Saturday 10 March 2018 There is widespread outrage as it emerges a man who has lived in London for 44 years is told to produce a British passport or face a bill of £54,000 for cancer treatment – forcing him to go without. Official suspicion about his immigration status also led to Albert Thompson – not his real name – being evicted and spending three weeks homeless.
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Thursday 22 March 2018 Theresa May refuses to intervene in Thompson’s case, having promised to do so when confronted by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, at prime minister’s questions. She says the decision lies with the hospital under her government’s new rules, which place a responsibility on clinicians to decide whether or not a case is urgent and demand documents before giving treatment where they are thought not to be.

Monday 26 March – Monday 9 April 2018 Three more similar cases emerge: those of Sarah O’Connor; Elwaldo Romeo and Michael Braithwaite, who have each lived in the UK for more than 50 years. O’Connor was challenged to prove she was in the country legally by the benefits agency and Romeo received a letter from the Home Office saying he was “liable to be detained” because he was a “person without leave”. Braithwaite, an experienced special needs teaching assistant, lost his job after his employers ruled he was in the country illegally.

Thursday 12 April 2018 International anger at Britain’s treatment of the Windrush generation grows as Caribbean diplomats condemn the Home Office. “I am dismayed that people who gave their all to Britain could be seemingly discarded so matter-of-factly,” says Guy Hewitt, the Barbados high commissioner to the UK.

Friday 13 April 2018 Voices of opposition are also raised domestically, as four Church of England bishops join a call for an immigration amnesty for those people who moved to the UK from the Caribbean decades ago. They start a petition that is backed by more than 140,000 signatories by Monday.

Sunday 15 April 2018 Downing Street refuses a formal diplomatic request to discuss the issue at this week’s meeting of the Commonwealth heads of government, leaving Caribbean diplomats with the impression the UK is not taking it seriously.

Monday 16 April 2018 Events begin to move quickly. The Labour MP, David Lammy, calls this a “day of national shame”, telling the Commons: “Let us call it as 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.”
The home secretary, Amber Rudd, announces the creation of a team dedicated to ensuring no more Windrush-era citizens be classified as illegal immigrants and acknowledges Home Office failings. She also promises none of them will be deported because of lack of paperwork.

More than 140 MPs from all parties sign a letter to the prime minister, demanding she find a “swift resolution of this growing crisis”. The same day, it emerges that a man who moved from Jamaica in 1955 has spent the last seven years fighting the Home Office over his immigration status. Richard Stewart cannot afford the £1,400 fee to naturalise in the UK.


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