The home secretary, Sajid Javid, has revealed that more than 60 members of the Windrush generation could have been wrongfully deported or removed from the UK in the first official indication of the scale of the problem.
Appearing before the home affairs select committee for the first time since his appointment to the job last month, Javid said the Home Office had identified 63 possible Windrush cases of wrongful removal and warned the number could rise.
Officials identified the cases after trawling through 8,000 removal and deportation records for Caribbean nationals aged 45 or over, who could have benefited from provisions in the 1971 Immigration Act protecting their right to be in the UK.
The revelation prompted further calls for a public inquiry into the Windrush scandal and drew criticism from the mayor of London and opposition MPs, among others.
What are enforced departures?
There are three layers of state-enforced or enforceable departures of immigrants from the UK: deportations, administrative removals and voluntary departures.
Deportations apply to people and their children whose removal is deemed ‘conducive to the public good’ by the home secretary. They can also be recommended by a court.
Administrative removals refer to cases involving the enforced removal of non-citizens who have either entered the country illegally, outstayed a visa, or violated the conditions of their leave to remain.
Voluntary departures are people against whom enforced removal has been initiated; the term ‘voluntary’ simply describes how they leave. There are three sub-categories:
a) Those who depart via assisted voluntary return schemes.
b) Those who make their own travel arrangements and tell the authorities.
c) Those who leave without notifying the government.
Javid said within the 63 people who could have been removed, 32 were labelled foreign national offenders and 31 were administrative removals – that is, enforced removals from the UK.
The figure – which Javid stressed was not the final number – is the first official indication of the number of individuals who could have been wrongfully removed or deported from the country.
Answering questions from the Labour MP Stephen Doughty, Javid said: “So far we have found – and I would preface these are not final numbers, they are subject to change because the work is still ongoing – we have found 63 cases where individuals could have entered the UK before 1973, so these are Caribbean Commonwealth citizens, who could have entered before 1973.
What is the Windrush deportation crisis?
Who are the Windrush generation?
They are people who arrived in the UK after the second world war from Caribbean countries at the invitation of the British government. The first group arrived on the ship MV Empire Windrush in June 1948.
What is happening to them?
An estimated 50,000 people face the risk of deportation if they never formalised their residency status and do not have the required documentation to prove it.
Why is this happening now?
It stems from a policy, set out by Theresa May when she was home secretary, to make the UK ‘a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants’. It requires employers, NHS staff, private landlords and other bodies to demand evidence of people’s citizenship or immigration status.
Why do they not have the correct paperwork and status?
Some children, often travelling on their parents’ passports, were never formally naturalised and many moved to the UK before the countries in which they were born became independent, so they assumed they were British. In some cases, they did not apply for passports. The Home Office did not keep a record of people entering the country and granted leave to remain, which was conferred on anyone living continuously in the country since before 1 January 1973.
What is the government doing to resolve the problem?
On Monday, the home secretary Amber Rudd announced the creation of a new Home Office team dedicated to ensuring that Commonwealth-born long-term UK residents would no longer find themselves classified as being in the UK illegally.
“The reason we use the word ‘could’’ – it means of the 8,000 records that came up of deportation removals there’s so far a focus on the 63 where there’s something in their records that indicates they could have been in the UK before 73 who have been removed or deported.”
In cases of the administrative removals, individuals would have been sent letters telling them they had no right to be in the UK and should leave.
Sadiq Khan said he was “shocked” at the figures given by the home secretary to the committee.
“Govt must urgently provide answers on exactly how many have been affected, and what action is being taken to right this wrong,” he wrote on Twitter.
Satbir Singh, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said the figure bolstered the case for a full public inquiry.
“The case for a public inquiry grows stronger every day,” he said.
Satbir Singh ?
Home Sec @SajidJavid: At least 63 members of the #Windrush generation have been wrongly removed. Number likely to rise. Number wrongly detained: unknown. Number of others wrongly removed: unknown. The case for a public inquiry grows stronger every day. https://t.co/Es22y5FUad
May 15, 2018
Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said: “Imagine living in a country that wrongly deports its own citizens. Under Theresa May’s hostile environment you don’t have to imagine.”
Windrush row: 63 people could have been wrongly removed, says Javid https://t.co/hMpmiBXUYT Govt previously could find no-one wrongfully deported. Still not answering on numbers detained, or refused re-entry, or ‘voluntary removals’ after threats of deportation.
May 15, 2018
Javid told the committee that he was not aware of any Windrush-related cases currently in detention but was yet to investigate how many have previously been wrongfully detained.
Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policies introduced when she was home secretary require employers, NHS staff, private landlords and other bodies to demand evidence of people’s citizenship or immigration status.
Members of the Windrush generation, who arrived in the UK from 1948 onwards, as well as their children have been wrongly targeted by the policies.
Among those caught up are people forced out of work, in some cases for years, and unable to claim welfare support, as well as individuals wrongfully detained and in some cases deported. Lawyers have begun preparing group compensation claims on behalf of members of the Windrush generation.
A Windrush taskforce and helpline has been launched and a consultation opened on the official compensation scheme.
Javid told the committee the helpline has taken more than 11,500 calls, of which 4,482 were identified as possible Windrush cases and referred to the taskforce.
More than 1,482 appointments have been booked, resulting in 526 people receiving documents to confirm their status.
A Labour government would dismantle Theresa May’s hostile environment policy and remove requirements on landlords, banks and employers to act as defacto immigration enforcement officers, the shadow home secretary will say.
In a speech on immigration policy in the wake of the Windrush scandal, Abbott will call on the government to U-turn on the policies put in place by May when she was home secretary and will pledge to reverse them if in government.
Abbott will commit Labour to upholding the right to a family life, article 8 of the European convention on human rights, meaning no deportations of the parents or children of anyone who has a right to be in the UK.
Labour would also remove the burden of proof from individuals accused of being here illegally – and asked to disprove the accusation with years worth of documents – and bring it back to the Home Office officials.
In her speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research, Abbott will say the way members of the Windrush generation have been treated is like “being made stateless by your own government, our government. A non-citizen, a non-person”.
Asked about the new figures, May said: “It was important, of course, that what the Home Office has done has looked very carefully across a period of time … to assess whether any such action had been taken in relation to anybody that was from the Windrush generation.”
She added: “I reiterate what we have said consistently. The Windrush generation have a right to be here, they are British, they are part of us. And I think you see that reflected in the arrangements that we have put in place to ensure that members of the Windrush generation have no doubt about their right to be here in the UK.”