Victims of the Windrush injustice received a personal apology from an immigration minister this afternoon as they visited Parliament for the first time since the scandal forced the home secretary to resign.
Speaking at a cross-party meeting, Caroline Nokes acknowledged that the treatment of people with West Indian heritage was an “appalling scandal”.
A former worker in Parliament’s canteen and a man who was denied cancer treatment were among those who were in attendance to hear the apology.
To everybody that has been affected by this appalling scandal, I am sorryCaroline Nokes, immigration minister
Ms Nokes said: “I don’t expect people to make me welcome here this afternoon.
“I don’t expect people to give me an easy ride.
“To everybody that has been affected by this appalling scandal, I am sorry.
“It is important to me to be here this afternoon.
“Not to speak at length and certainly not to give a defence on behalf of the Government but to say sorry.
“I will try and be here this afternoon for as long as I can to listen what people have to say but I just wish to put absolutely and formally on record how sorry I am that this has happened on my watch.”
Paulette Wilson, who was affected by the Windrush scandal, used to work in Parliament and returned for the first time in 30 years to receive Nokes’ apology for what she endured.
Ms Wilson said: “I want to thank everybody in this room for being on our side.
“Thank you everybody for being human and for not being racist. Thank you all very much.”
The Windrush spirit lives on. It is my honour and privilege to welcome my brother and friend Sylvester Marshall (aka Albert Thompson) to Parliament today. The fight for justice goes on. The arc of the moral universe bends towards justice but sometimes it needs a good push. pic.twitter.com/4fG98Z4vDo— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) May 1, 2018
Sylvester Marshall, a Windrush immigrant who was denied NHS cancer treatment because of the Home Office’s “hostile environment”, revealed at the event that he had received his first session of radiotherapy this morning.
Speaking at the event Mr Marshall, who used the name Albert Thompson throughout the Guardian’s reporting on Windrush to protect himself from deportation, said: “I have been trying a long time to obtain my paperwork and each time I tried they kept saying I was illegal.
“I keep telling them I am not, I am British. They didn’t believe me.
“This paperwork caused me a lot of grief and stress.
“At least it is all over now.”
Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said: “This has been a moment of truth because the Windrush generation were one of the most patriotic groups of British citizens that you could find.
We are here because you were there. With my Windrush brothers and sisters fighting for justice. We are the sugar at the bottom of the English cup of tea. pic.twitter.com/xLJIcRWJ6b— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) May 1, 2018
“These were people who loved the Royal family, they were proud to be British.
“Our job is to hold the Government to account. You cannot treat people like this.”
Jeremy Corbyn, who was also in attendance, called for amendments to the 2014 Immigration Act which encouraged the “hostile environment” that threatened the legal status of many Windrush immigrants.
He said: “For the first time in many years the debate about immigration in our society has changed.
“Stop treating people like they are second class citizens because they weren’t born here and they came to make their contribution here.
“Recognise a strong community is one that respects each other.
“I think this is a very important turning point in our national story.”