Labour slammed the government today after it admitted that a number of British-Caribbean citizens of the Windrush generation have been wrongly deported — but didn’t know how many.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said it is “an absolute scandal” that the Home Office has no idea how many people with a right to remain in Britain had been deported “in error.”
Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy had tabled an urgent question in the Commons in which he pressed Home Secretary Amber Rudd to explain how many Commonwealth-born citizens have been deported, detained and denied free NHS healthcare.
“This is a day of national shame that has come about because of the government’s hostile environment and far-right rhetoric,” he said.
They have fallen foul of “hostile environment” immigration policies that make it harder for undocumented migrants to live and work in the UK by forcing employers, health care providers and others to obtain proof of residence.
Under the 1971 Immigration Act, Commonwealth citizens living in the UK were allowed to remain here. But the Home Office did not keep records of those who stayed, making it difficult for Windrush children to prove they are legally in Britian.
The government has belatedly woken up to the problem after a huge public outcry. Home Secretary Amber Rudd described the government’s treatment of the Windrush children as “appalling”, promising access to missing documents for those affected.
For the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK who are worrying about their fate post-Brexit, the harsh treatment of the Windrush children must sound alarm bells. While the government has proposed a solution for EU citizens, it depends on the final Brexit agreement. And the Windrush scandal shows that there is a world of difference between having a legal right to remain and actually being able to assert and depend on that right.