Author: Jeevan A. Robinson - MNI Media | Date: 17 April 2018
UK Prime Minister Theresa May, at a meeting with Caribbean Leaders at her offices at Downing Street, London, England, on Tuesday April 17th, said she was "genuinely sorry" about the anxiety caused over the Windrush generation controversy.
The controversy centers around the UK Home Office having deported, and further threatening the children of Commonwealth citizens with deportation.
The Windrush generation refers to workers from the West Indies who sailed to Britain to fill labour shortages, starting with the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush on June 22nd, 1948 at Tilbury Dock, Essex. The 492 Caribbean passengers – many of whom had fought for Britain during World War II (1939 – 1945) – came at the invitation of the British government, marking the start of post-war mass migration from the Caribbean to the UK.
Under the 1971 Immigration Act, which came into force on January 1st, 1973, all Commonwealth citizens already living in the United Kingdom received indefinite leave to remain. Some of these new immigrants entered the UK on their parents’ documentation, but some were never formally naturalized, nor had they applied for a British passport. Thus, it became difficult for them to prove that they are legally in the UK.
It is understood, based on statements made by a former Home Office employee speaking to the UK's Guardian Newspaper, that thousands of landing card slips recording Windrush immigrants' arrival dates in the UK were destroyed in 2010 during a Home Office relocation move.
Apparently, the individual also told The Guardian that Home Office Managers were alerted to the fact that destroying the cards would have made it difficult to check the records of older Caribbean-born residents who needed to prove their right to remain in the UK.
A response from the UK government indicated that the decision to dispose of the cards had been an "operational" one, taken by officials at the UK Border Agency.
According to the BBC, a UK 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."
Prime Minister May stated in her talks with Caribbean Leaders at Downing Street stated, “…I want to reiterate how much we value the contribution that has been made by Commonwealth citizens who’ve made their life here in the UK to the United Kingdom,” adding, “…and particularly the Windrush generation helped to build the country that we are today, and I want to dispel any impression that my government is in some sense clamping down on Commonwealth citizens, particularly those in the Caribbean who’ve built a life here.”
She went on to say, “I take this issue very seriously. The Home Secretary apologized in the House of Commons yesterday for any anxiety caused, and I want to apologize to you today because we are genuinely sorry for any anxiety that has been caused.”
UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, told MPs in the House of Commons yesterday, “I do not want any of the Commonwealth citizens who are here legally to be impacted in the way they have. Frankly, some of the ways they have been treated has been wrong, has been appalling, and I am sorry,” adding, “I am concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual."