PM apologises over ‘Windrush generation’ members threatened with deportation
Theresa May tells Caribbean leaders she is ‘genuinely sorry’ for the anxiety caused.
Theresa May has apologised to Caribbean leaders over the treatment of members of the so-called “Windrush generation” who have been threatened with deportation after decades living in the UK.
At talks in No 10, the Prime Minister said she was “genuinely sorry” for the anxiety that had been caused and that she wanted to dispel the idea that the Government was seeking to clamp down on citizens from the region.
Her attempt to draw a line under the affair threatened to come unstuck after Labour MP David Lammy disclosed he had been contacted by a woman who arrived from the West Indies in the 1950s and whose son was facing deportation on Wednesday.
After posting details on Twitter, Mr Lammy said he was contacted by Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes who told him the removal of Mozi Haynes had been halted while his case was reviewed.
I have just received a phone call from @carolinenokes. This gentleman is not being deported tomorrow, the deportation is being halted and his case is being reviewed. Justice will be done - any other Windrush Generation children facing deportation please email me urgently. David.— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) April 17, 2018
The incident – and the speed of the minister’s response – underlined how sensitive the issue has become for the Government.
Earlier, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said officials had begun trawling through the files to establish whether any individuals had been wrongly deported.
Following a tightening of the immigration rules, people who came to the UK in the decades following the Second World War – often as schoolchildren – have been threatened with removal unless they can prove they are entitled to stay.
Their plight has been highlighted by the presence in London of the leaders of 12 Caribbean countries attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm).
In hastily arranged talks in Downing Street, Mrs May echoed the apology made by Home Secretary Amber Rudd in the Commons on Monday for the way that they had been treated.
She said the Government accepted those who arrived from the Caribbean before 1973 – when new rules came in – and who had been living in the UK without significant time away were entitled to remain, as were the “vast majority” who arrived subsequently.
“I want to dispel any impression that my Government is in some sense clamping down on Commonwealth citizens, particularly those from the Caribbean,” she said.
“I take this issue very seriously. The Home Secretary apologised in the House of Commons yesterday for any anxiety caused.
“And I want to apologise to you today. Because we are genuinely sorry for any anxiety that has been caused.
“I don’t want anybody to be in any doubt about their right to remain here in the United Kingdom.”
Even as the meeting was taking place, however, Mr Lammy was explaining on social media how he had been contacted by 74-year-old Ruth Williams who feared her son, Mr Haynes, was about to be deported.
The MP said the actions of the Home Office were a “national disgrace”, adding: “Heads must roll over this and the Home Secretary and Immigration Minister must consider their positions.”
Within four hours of his original Twitter posting Mr Lammy said he had been assured by Ms Nokes that the deportation would take place until the case had been reviewed.
Ms Ruth Williams, 75 years old Windrush citizen and mother of a son facing deportation: I feel betrayed and a second class citizen in my own country. This makes me so sad and the Home Office must show some compassion.— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) April 17, 2018
Speaking to LBC radio, Ms Williams said she first came to the UK in 1959 and returned to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in 1980 for a break, later giving birth to her son there.
Mr Haynes said the Caribbean was an area he did not “really know much any more” and that returning would mean leaving his mother, who has cancer, “suffering by herself”.
“I love Britain, it has been my home for so long I don’t really know anything else you know, but it is hostile and I don’t know if they mean for it to be this way, but that’s just the way it is,” he said.