More than 200 MPs have written to Theresa May urging her to enshrine promises made to Windrush generation migrants in law, keeping the pressure on the prime minister as she fights to contain the crisis.
The letter, which is predominately backed by Labour MPs, also accuses Amber Rudd of making up immigration policy “on the hoof” in a bid to overcome the scandal.
The home secretary is facing a barrage of calls to resign, including from the mayor of London Sadiq Khan in the Observer, with critics accusing her of mishandling the Windrush row and apparently being unaware of the Home Office’s use of targets for removing illegal immigrants.
The letter has also been signed by politicians from the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green party.
Calling for the pledges to be written into law “without delay”, the letter also carries the signature of a Conservative MP, the BBC reports.
Addressed to the prime minister, it says: “We are calling on you to do this by bringing a statutory instrument before parliament to ensure that the measures are implemented as quickly as possible.”
How the Guardian broke the story
In November last year, Paulette Wilson (left), who has lived in the UK for more than half a century, spoke to the Guardian’s Amelia Gentleman about her treatment at the hands of the Home Office – and revealed that she had been held at Yarl’s Wood detention centre and threatened with deportation. It was the first of a series of stories that developed a picture of how many members of the Windrush generation were being mistreated by the government under the so-called ‘hostile environment’ policy. By February, with other examples mounting, the government had relented in Wilson’s case, but faced acute criticism from Caribbean diplomats who urged the Home Office to adopt a “more compassionate” approach.
In March the story of Albert Thompson – who had lived in Britain for 44 years but was told to produce a passport or face a bill of £54,000 for cancer treatment – forced attention back to the growing crisis. After the Guardian reported a string of additional cases matters came to a head when Theresa May refused to meet with Caribbean diplomats to discuss the issue, prompted fury among opposition MPs and a wider media backlash. After days of negative publicity Rudd and May were forced to change tack and issued apologies, promised reforms – and eventually gave the Windrush generation a fast-track to citizenship.
Some of the so-called Windrush generation have been threatened with deportation, refused access to public services such as healthcare or lost their jobs as a result of “hostile environment” immigration policies.
The government has offered free citizenship to people from all Commonwealth countries who arrived in the UK before 1973, including individuals who have no current documentation.
Children of the Windrush generation are also included, as well as Commonwealth migrants who already have leave to remain and want to advance their status.
Rudd said some individuals may be eligible for compensation.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary has committed clearly to Parliament what the government will do to resolve the difficulties faced by people in the Windrush generation, who have built their lives here and contributed so much to our society, and she has apologised unreservedly for any distress caused.
“The new dedicated taskforce is in place and the first urgent cases have already been handled, with people being issued with documents confirming their status.
“All of this can be done under existing immigration legislation. Detailed policy guidance and amendments to existing secondary legislation, where necessary, will be brought forward as soon as possible – and in some areas, we will want to consult with the communities affected first to ensure it best meets their needs.”
The letter emerged as a senior Conservative minister appealed to ethnic minority voters not to abandon the party in this week’s local elections over the Windrush scandal.
Sajid Javid, the communities secretary whose parents emigrated from Pakistan in the 1960s, said his first reaction when he heard people were being wrongly threatened with deportation was that it could have been his family.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph he said the government was committed to “put things right” and he urged ethnic minority voters to look at the “bigger picture” when it came to Thursday’s vote.
Labour, however, made clear that there would be no let-up on the pressure on Rudd, who apologised on Friday in a series of late-night tweets for not knowing the Home Office did use immigration targets, when she had previously said it did not.
She said she had not seen a memo, leaked to the Guardian, referring to the targets, even though it was copied to her office.
In a separate letter to Theresa May, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Rudd’s explanations as to why she had told MPs there were no such targets when in fact there were “stretch credulity to the limit”.
Abbott said Rudd had “lost control of her department and lost the trust of the public” and should either resign or the prime minister should sack her.