Theresa May today revealed the disastrous decision to shred documents which could prove the right of Windrush immigrants to stay was taken by a Labour Government.
The Prime Minister made the shock revelation after she issued her second grovelling apology in two days to the Caribbean migrants threatened with deportation.
She said Windrush immigrants ‘are British – they are part of us’ and vowed to ensure they can stay in the UK.
She told the House of Commons: ‘And for those who have mistakenly received letters challenging them. I want to apologise to them.’
She also revealed the decision to shred landing cards in storage which could prove the right of the migrants to stay was taken in 2009 when Labour was in power.
Her revelation was met with gasps and shouts from the Tory benches who urged Labour to ‘apologise’ after they had blamed Mrs May for the destruction of the cards, which happened in 2010 when she was Home Secretary.
Her apology, delivered in PMQs, comes as Amber Rudd is today facing calls to quit as Home Secretary over the Windrush fiasco.
Theresa May today issued a grovelling apology to Windrush immigrants in the House of Commons after being slammed for implementing the ‘disastrous’ policy.
The Prime Minister (pictured in PMQs today) said the immigrants who have been threatened with deportation ‘are British – they are part of us’ and will be allowed to stay.
The PM told the House of Commons: ‘And for those who have mistakenly received letters challenging them. I want to apologise to them.’
Diane Abbott said Ms Rudd should ‘consider her position’ after people who have lived in Britain for decades were threatened with deportation.
Windrush immigrants have told how they lost their jobs, feared they would lose their homes and driven to the point of suicide after they were threatened with deportation.
Up to 57,000 Commonwealth-born people who arrived in the UK before 1971 could be affected by the scandal.
What is the Windrush scandal and how did the fiasco develop?
June 22, 1948 – The Empire Windrush passenger ship docked at Tilbury from Jamaica.
The 492 passengers were temporarily housed near Brixton in London. Over the following decades some 500,000 came to the UK.
Many arrived on their parents’ passports and were not formally naturalised as British citizens.
1973 – A new immigration Act comes into force putting the onus on individuals to prove they have previously been resident in the UK.
2010 – The Home Office destroyed thousands of landing card slips recording Windrush immigrants’ arrival dates in the UK.
The move came despite staff warnings that the move would make it harder to check the records of older Caribbean-born residents experiencing residency difficulties, it was claimed
2014 – A protection that exempted Commonwealth residents from enforced removal was removed under a new law. Theresa May was Home Secretary at the time.
Under a crackdown on illegals, Windrush immigrants are obliged to provide proof they were resident in the UK before 1973.
July 2016 – Mrs May becomes Prime Minister.
April 2018 – Allegations that Windrush immigrants are being threatened with deportation break. Theresa May issued a grovelling apology to Caribbean leaders after major backlash
Taking to her feet in PMQs today, Ms May apologised directly to Windrush immigrants for a fiasco just a day after she said sorry to Caribbean leaders at No10.
She said: ‘People in the Windrush generation who came here form Commonwealth countries have based their lives here and massive contributions to the country.
‘These people are British. They are part of us. I want to be absolutely clear that we have no intention of asking anyone to leave who has the right to remain here.’
‘For those who have mistakenly received letters challenging them I want to apologise them and I want to say sorry to anyone who has been caused confusion and anxiety by this.’
Mrs May also told MPs that the decision to destroy the landing cards that would have held a record of Windrush arrivals was made in 2009.
In a heated exchange in the Commons, Mr Corbyn said: ‘Yesterday we learned in 2010 the Home Office destroyed the landing cards for a generation of Commonwealth citizens, so have told people ‘we can’t find you in our system’.
‘Did the Prime Minister, the then-Home Secretary, sign off that decision?’
Theresa May replied: ‘No, the decision to destroy the landing cards was taken in 2009 under a Labour government.’
Her comment sparked shouts of ‘apologise’ from the Conservative benches.
Commenting after the Commons clash, a Labour Party spokesman said: ‘The Government’s story is shifting by the hour.
‘First Downing Street claimed the decision to destroy the Windrush-era landing cards was made by the Home Office in 2010 for data protection reasons. Then the Home Office passed the buck to a 2010 decision by the UK Border Agency.
‘At PMQs, the Prime Minister tried to shift the blame onto the last Labour government but was undermined by her own spokesperson minutes later, who then stated it was an operational decision, which Labour ministers would not have been aware of.
‘Her spokesperson couldn’t even say when the cards were destroyed.
‘In the confusion, one thing is already clear: The change in the law in 2014 that meant members of the Windrush generation faced deportation and the loss of their rights, including to healthcare, was made in full view of the fact that the vital information had been destroyed.
The Tory Government has faced heavy criticism for the Windrush immigration fiasco.
Critics have slammed Mrs May for the ‘disastrous’ decision to crackdown on immigrants, and create a ‘hostile’ environment for people in the UK illegally whlie she was head of the Home Office.
Diane Abbott (pictured, today, in London, left) said Amber Rudd (pictured last week in Downing Street, right) should ‘consider her position’ after people who have lived in Britain for decades were threatened with deportation.
St Kitts and Nevis foreign minister Mark Brantley (pictured right, on Newsnight last night) said Theresa May is ‘best placed’ to sort out the mess as she was Home Secretary when the ‘disastrous’ policy was enacted
While Mrs Rudd has faced calls to resign as Home Secretary after trying to blame her officials for the scandal.
She told the Commons Home Office officials had ‘lost sight’ of the individual by threatening to kick them out of the country and vowed to ensure no one was deported.
What documentation did Windrush immigrants have to provide?
Immigrants must fill out a form to apply for a biometric card which allows them to remain in the UK.
The application costs £229 per person – but the Home Office has now said it will waive the fee for Windrush immigrants after the controversy.
Applicants must fill in a 21-page document .
And if they do not have a passport they must provide documents proving they have continuously lived in the UK since 1973.
This can include exam certificates, employment records, a National Insurance number, birth and marriage certificates and bills and letters.
St Kitts and Nevis foreign minister Mark Brantley said Mrs May is ‘best placed’ to sort out the mess as she was Home Secretary when the ‘disastrous’ policy was enacted.
The row is a major embarrassment for the Government as it hosts Commonwealth leaders in the capital for a summit.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, Ms Abbott said Ms Rudd should take the blame for the shambles.
She said: ‘At the end of the day, she is the Home Secretary and it is her department and there was a time where if something went wrong in a department you as the minister took responsibility.
‘The way Amber Rudd is attempting to avoid responsibility is very concerning. I think she needs to consider her position.
‘There are so many things that have gone wrong. This isn’t a new situation, it’s been going on for some years.’
But while Ms Rudd is facing calls to quit others have said Mrs May should shoulder responsibility as she was Home Secretary when the law requiring tougher paperwork was introduced.
Mr Brantley said the policies which led to the row had been ‘misguided’ or had ‘unintended consequences’.
He also warned that the way the Government handled the situation could have implications after Brexit as the UK faces having to deal with the status of millions of EU citizens.
He told BBC Newnsight last night: ‘I felt that your Prime Minister here, Theresa May, is perhaps best placed to deal with this fiasco because clearly she was Home Secretary when many of the rules went into effect that now are having these disastrous consequences for so many people.’
He also warned that the row could have implications as the UK leaves the European Union.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, pictured leaving Downing Street today. The Windrush row is a major embarrassment for the Government as it hosts Commonwealth leaders in the capital for a summit
He said: ‘The way that the British Government deals with the Windrush generation might have implications post-Brexit, in terms of how European living in England are to be treated and vice-versa how people from England living in Europe are to be treated as well.’
Mrs May yesterday personally apologised to Caribbean leaders for the fiasco as she scrambled to try to quell anger over the cases.
But she was in charge of the Home Office in 2010 when the landing cards were controversially destroyed.
Downing Street said disposing of documents had been the right decision to take while the Home Office said the information had limited use and keeping them could have broken data protection laws.
But Labour said the destruction of the registration slips was ‘truly shocking’ and blamed the ‘fiasco’ on the Home Office.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Registration slips provided details of an individual’s date of entry, they did not provide any reliable evidence relating to ongoing residence in the UK or their immigration status.
‘So it would be misleading and inaccurate to suggest that registration slips would therefore have a bearing on immigration cases whereby Commonwealth citizens are proving residency in the UK.’
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘The decision was taken to securely dispose of these documents, and that was the right one to take.’
Asked if Mrs May had been aware of the disposal while she was home secretary, the PM’s spokesman said: ‘My belief, at this moment, is that it was an operational decision that was taken by the Border Agency.’
‘I can’t drive, I can’t work, I can’t do anything’: ‘Appalled and disgusted’ Windrush daughter and NHS worker tell of anger at fiasco as Jamaican PM demands ‘justice’ for those deported
Windrush scandal victims today described their disgust at being told they would be deported despite arriving as babies, having parents with British citizenship and even working for the NHS for years.
Glenda Caesar worked at a GP practice for 16 years having come to the UK as a six-month-old baby from Dominica but was suddenly told she had to leave and said today: ‘Why am I not British? What did I do wrong?’
Her friend Sonia Williams arrived in England from Barbados at age 13 in 1975 but within two years she lost her job, had her driving licence cut up and told she would be thrown out of Britain.
She said: ‘I am numb, appalled and disgusted by what has happened to me. I can’t drive, I can’t work, I can’t claims benefits, I can’t do anything. Sometimes I just want to give up’.
Jamaican PM Andrew Holness has demanded justice for Windrush victims and said Britain must give them a chance to return
Some victims have been in the UK for more than 50 years, many have British children and have worked all their lives – yet they have been denied leave to remain, told they will be deported and even denied NHS treatment as they fight to stay.
Jamaica’s prime minister has said Britain must allow people wrongly deported in the Windrush scandal back to the UK to restore their ‘dignity’ and give them ‘justice’.
Andrew Holness met Theresa May in Downing Street yesterday but she had been unable to say how many people had been deported.
He said: ‘We have to ensure those who have been deported have a process to come back.
‘My view is that if there is an acceptance there should be a process of restoration. We can’t deny people their dignity’.
Sonia Williams, who arrived in Britain from Barbados in 1975 as a child, lost her job in 2014 and struggled to get a new job. In the 2016 the DVLA said she was no longer ‘resident’ in Britain and had to ‘put the dots together’ herself.
She said: ‘My mum’s got citizenship, my dad had right to remain. So I just presumed I had all that, because I was leaving Barbados to come and live with my family. I wasn’t just coming on holiday
‘They have been giving me the run-around. No-one’s telling me where to go or what to do. I’m not working, I can’t claim benefits, so where am I going to get this money to apply for these things that they’re asking me for?’
Pressed for her thoughts on the destruction of thousands of landing cards in 2010, meaning it left many with no proof for many that they are British, she told Good Morning Britain: ‘Why were they destroyed?
‘Then you are asking us for this information when you know you have destroyed it’.
Windrush daughters Sonia Williams and Glenda Caesar have lived in the UK since they were children after emigrating to Britain with their parents – but have been told they will be deported
Glenda Caesar has been in the UK since the age of six months after arriving from Dominica with her parents.
She worked for the NHS for more than a decade as an administrator before being told she must leave Britain.
She said: ‘I was told I had to leave because I don’t have a British passport. I was in shock, I cried, I was angry.
‘All I have ever known is Britain. I came on my parents’ passport so had no documents.
‘I am the mother of for British children – I have a national insurance number, have worked here, have paid my taxes and given birth to my children here.
Pressed on how she feels about being de-legitimised as a British citizen, Ms Caesar said: ‘Why am I not British? What did I do wrong? I didn’t do anything wrong. It is not my mistake.’
Meeting Caribbean leaders in Downing Street yesterday, Theresa May said she was ‘genuinely sorry’ for the treatment of the Windrush immigrants – but said she was unable to say how many victims there were
One man said he had contemplated suicide if he ended up being deported to Jamaica, the nation he left as a baby in 1962.
Nick Broderick came into contact with authorities during an immigration check four years at the recruitment firm in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, where he worked.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today that an official told him: ‘I’m sorry we seem to have lost the papers you have sent in so now you are going to be deported.’
Mr Broderick, whose older brother Andrew received a UK passport while serving in the British Army, told the programme he sent in reports from his school and doctor and ‘everybody else that I could find, but it wasn’t good enough for them.’
He added: ‘I was on tenterhooks. Then I got a visit from them and they really gave it too me about ‘I have only got a few weeks to go’ and you will definitely be sent back.
‘That sent me into a spiral of depression which I’m only just coming out of.
‘I’m still not allowed to go to the hospital, or the doctor’s surgery or get a bus pass.’
He currently has a biometric identity card, he told the programme, but has to regularly report to police.
He said he had contemplated what he might do if deported to Jamaica, saying: ‘I was actually going to commit suicide when I got there, or thereabouts.’
Theresa May faces a fresh Windrush row after immigrant denied cancer treatment reveals he is still not getting radiotherapy – despite the PM’s assurance he would
Albert Thompson, who has been denied life saving treatment on the NHS
An immigrant denied cancer treatment in the Windrush fiasco is still not getting radiotherapy – despite the assurances of the Prime Minister.
Albert Thompson, 63, has lived in London for 44 years – but told he must pay £54,000 for life saving treatment on the NHS.
Theresa May was challenged over the case in PMQs today and assured he would get the care.
She told the Commons: ‘Clinicians have been looking at Mr Thompson’s case, and he will be receiving the treatment that he needs.’
But Mr Thompson said that no one has told him about the U-turn and he is still waiting for hospital treatment.
He said: ‘No one has gotten in touch with me yet to tell me about anything regarding my treatment, including when I’ll get it.’
His MP, Labour backbencher Chuka Umunna, raised the issue later in Parliament, and demanded to know if the PM had misled MPs.
He said: ‘In the exchanges earlier in this place the Prime Minister said that Mr Thompson will be receiving the NHS treatment he needs. That is incorrect.
‘He needs radiotherapy treatment but my constituent has not received his treatment, and if there are any plans that have been made for him to get this treatment then he certainly has not been informed of it.
That is a fact, and to say otherwise is wrong.’
For three decades Mr Thompson worked, supported a family, and was a head mechanic for a string of garages, and paid his taxes.
His mother arrived in the UK from Jamaica in the Sixties to come and work her as a nurse.
He had surgery for prostate cancer in January last year, before NHS eligibility rules were tightened, and was to begin radiotherapy at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, last November.
But when he arrived for his first NHS radiotherapy session following the removal of his prostate, he was told he was not entitled to free treatment.
It is because the Home Office can find no record of Mr Thompson, who was born in Jamaica, in its files.
He lost the Caribbean passport he arrived in the UK with some years ago. And without a British passport – which he’s never had and cannot not get because there is no documentary proof of his arrival here as a teenager in 1973, landlords will not house him and the NHS have told his he can’t have treatment.
He said: ‘At present I’m left in limbo. It feels like I’ve been left to die because the job hasn’t been finished. I get depressed, stressed out, anxious.
‘I used to have a life, to work, to go out, enjoy myself. I had a nice car, a home. I went to the cinema, dancing. But that’s the past. I have to think about the present and it’s hard to come to terms with. I’ve got no money.
‘I’m very angry with the Government that I’m in this position. I’m here legally, but they’re asking me to prove I’m British.’
Mr Thompson worked until 2008 when he was diagnosed with the blood cancer lymphoma and an acute back problem; since then he has been too ill to work.
He was evicted from his rented flat because his landlord wanted to sell it. Tenants must now produce a British passport in order to rent accommodation. As Albert — not his real name — does not have a passport, he could not find a home.
‘I was on the streets for three weeks. I had to beg for food. I felt ashamed. I just asked people in shops if they had anything spare.’
After three weeks, Albert had managed to secure a room through a homeless charity, St Mungo’s. He still lives in that accommodation now.