Amber Rudd today promised Windrush immigrants will be given British citizenship ‘quickly and at no cost’ as she battles to save her job.
The Home Secretary also said those caught up in the debacle would be due compensation as she described their stories as ‘heartbreaking’.
In a Commons statement, Ms Rudd said the debacle ‘should never have happened’ and ministers were ‘too slow’ to respond – but insisted that ‘successive governments’ bore responsibility.
Unveiling a wide-ranging package designed to ease fury at the treatment of people who had been living in the UK and paying taxes for decades, Ms Rudd said they and their children would be granted fast-track passports with charges waived.
An independently-run scheme will be set up to determine entitlement to compensation.
Ms Rudd told MPs: ‘They are British in all but legal status, and this should never have been allowed to happen.’
In a statement to MPs today, Amber Rudd promised Windrush immigrants will be given British citizenship ‘quickly and at no cost’
Ms Rudd said those caught up in the debacle would be due compensation as she described their stories as ‘heartbreaking’
New rules require documentary evidence of the right to be here, which many Windrush children do not have as anyone who arrived in the UK from a Commonwealth country before 1971 was given indefinite leave to remain, meaning many did not apply for a British passport
She added: ‘The state has let these people down.
‘Travel documents denied, exclusions from returning to the UK, benefits cut, even threats of removal. This, to a group of people who came to help build this country. People who should be thanked.
‘This has happened for some time. I will put this right and where people have suffered loss, they will be compensated.’
Ms Rudd told the House of Commons fees for any children of the Windrush generation who need to apply for naturalisation and charges associated with returning to the UK for people who have retired to their countries of origin after making their lives here would also be waived.
The Home Secretary said that successive governments have introduced measures to combat illegal immigration since the 1980s.
She emphasised her commitment to tackling illegal immigration but conceded the policies had an ‘unintended and sometimes devastating’ impact on people from the Windrush generation who are here legally but have struggled to get documentation to prove their status.
Key points in Rudd’s Windrush package
- Windrush migrants and their children will have citizenship fast-tracked and all fees will be waived.
- Officials will take a ‘generous’ approach and ‘definitive documentary proof’ will not be required.
- An independent process will be set up to award compensation for those caught up in the debacle.
- Ministers are halfway through reviewing whether anyone has been wrongly deported, but still cannot rule out the possibility.
Ms Rudd admitted that the Home Office was still unable completely to rule out anyone having been wrongly deported.
But shadow home secretary Diane Abbott blamed Ms Rudd for the situation, saying ‘she allowed it to happen’.
She said: ‘These cases can’t come as surprise to her because for some time many of my colleagues on this side of the House have been pursuing individual cases.
‘She is behaving as if it is a shock to her that officials are implementing regulations in the way she intended them to be implemented.’
Ms Abbott drew cheers from the Labour benches after telling Ms Rudd ‘ultimately the buck stops with her’.
The statement came after a leaked letter revealed ministers were aware of risk to the Windrush generation when immigration reforms were made law.
The letter, written in May 2016 by a Home Office Minister, fueled the row about whether Ms Rudd should resign.
It proves ministers were aware members of the Windrush generation were facing deportation years ago.
The Government has insisted members of the Windrush should never have been targeted by a wider crackdown aimed at making Britain a ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants.
Diane Abbott drew cheers from the Labour benches after telling Ms Rudd ‘ultimately the buck stops with her’
Ms Rudd admitted that the Home Office was still unable categorically to rule out anyone having been wrongly deported
Defending Ms Rudd, and Theresa May who implemented reforms as Home Secretary, ministers have blamed an official-level failure to properly implement policy.
But the letter, written the then immigration minister James Brokenshire, set out to Labour MP Kate Hoey how the policy impacted on Trevor and Desmond Johnson.
Both legally arrived in Britain from Jamaica as children in 1971 but faced deportation because they could not prove residency before 1973, when the law changed.
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
The letter, revealed today by the Guardian, lays bare what ministers knew before the scandal broke in recent days.
In other developments, a Government whip has insisted that the treatment of the Windrush generation was ‘nothing to do’ with the immigration reforms implemented while Theresa May was home secretary.
Mike Freer’s comments, in an email to a constituent, said the issues were ‘wholly separate and unconnected’ and accused the opposition of ‘opportunism and hypocrisy’ over the scandal.
Labour MP David Lammy, who has led the parliamentary campaign on the treatment of the Windrush generation, said Mr Freer’s comments were ‘very different indeed to the conciliatory lines of apology’ about the scandal from the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
Speaking to Nick Robinson on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday, Justice Secretary David Gauke said the Home Secretary should not resign.
He said: ‘No, absolutely, because when it comes down to it, the central policy is right.
‘Clearly, there have been very significant failures in terms of how this has been implemented.
‘I think it is right that both the Home Secretary and Prime Minister have apologised for this.’
Asked if he felt ashamed about what had happened, Mr Gauke said: ‘Yes. It is wrong what has happened. It should not have happened.’
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry led calls for Ms Rudd to go.
She told Robinson: ‘People have died, people have lost their jobs, lost their futures.
‘People working in the national health service all their lives suddenly lose their jobs.
‘It could not be worse and yet the Home Secretary thinks ‘I can apologise and it will be alright’. Well, it won’t be.
‘I really think she should quit.’
When asked whether she believed ministers had implemented a racist policy, Ms Thornberry said: ‘I don’t like to bandy around these things, I’d rather just stick to the evidence.
‘I’m happy to say there is something rotten at the heart of Government.
‘I think that the idea of cutting immigration back to tens of thousands when you know you have no control over one of the major drivers and so, therefore, you need to be enforcing rules and be fundamentally unfair on those from outside the European Union, that is wrong and that is rotten.’
Theresa May, pictured attending a memorial for Stephen Lawrence today, has been facing questions about her role in the Windrush debacle while Home Secretary