More than 140 MPs from all parties have signed a letter to Theresa May, expressing concern about the many Commonwealth-born, long-term British residents who have been incorrectly identified as illegal immigrants and calling on her to find a “swift resolution of this growing crisis”.
The letter was written by David Lammy, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on race and community, and has been signed by Jeremy Corbyn, the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, as well as the Conservative MPs Sarah Wollaston, Bob Blackman and Peter Bottomley. It urges the government to find an “effective, humane route” to resolve an immigration anomaly that has caused “undue stress, anxiety and suffering” to many.
The international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, acknowledged on Monday that there was a need for the Home Office to improve the way it treated people facing this problem.
“What clearly needs to happen is we need to do a better job with the process that these individuals are having to go through,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “People who are in that situation, there is absolutely no question of their right to remain and their right to gain access to services such as healthcare.
“My advice to anyone who finds themselves in these circumstances is to contact your local MP … that is what we are there for. People should not be concerned about this. They have the right to stay and we should be reassuring them of that.”
The issue of the children of Windrush generation migrants experiencing serious immigration issues in the UK, despite having lived here all their adult lives, will be discussed on the fringes of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting this week. Downing Street last week refused a request from the high commissioners of 12 Caribbean nations for a dedicated meeting on this subject and declined to put it formally on the agenda.
Guy Hewitt, the high commissioner for Barbados, called on No 10 again to see if there were any windows in the prime minister’s schedule for a last-minute meeting. He said the refusal to offer a sit-down meeting with May was “most unfortunate”.
“I am hoping No 10 will look at the schedule for Prime Minister May and if they find any opening they will give priority to Caribbean heads,” he told Today. He felt the UK was saying to “people of my region: you are no longer welcome”.
There is growing unease among politicians about the situation that has affected an unknown number of people who arrived in the UK as children, but never formally naturalised or applied for a British passport.
The Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, tweeted: “The news that Windrush kids are finding it difficult to establish legal status is very serious. I look forward to the Home Office sorting this problem quickly so those who helped build our country get their rights confirmed fast.”
Abbott said she would be holding a public meeting on the issue in parliament on Thursday, inviting individuals affected and representatives of Caribbean governments “snubbed” by the prime minister.
The MPs’ letter to May said bureaucratic errors had brought “irreparable damage to lives in addition to undue stress, anxiety and suffering”.
“The impact has been felt in the cases of individuals losing the right to work, to rent property, to receive pensions, to access their bank accounts or even to access vital healthcare – a particularly cruel twist of fate as so many of those affected have spent their lives in the service of our National Health Service. Indeed, following world war two our country and its government sent out a call to the Commonwealth and invited these individuals to Britain to help build our National Health Service and rebuild our country,” it says.
Describing the situation as “immoral and inhumane”, Lammy said: “The prime minister must act urgently to right this historic wrong. The government is essentially stripping people of the rights that our government itself gave them decades ago. These individuals have done nothing wrong and there is no basis upon which the Home Office can justify what they are doing. Some of the cases that have caught the public’s attention are truly heartbreaking.”
He warned that many people in this situation were “too scared and anxious to seek to clarify their own status for fear they will be stripped of their status or deported back to a country that they have no memory of and is certainly not their home. Their home is here.”
MPs’ letter to Theresa May
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