The Home Office may have wrongly deported 63 British citizens from the Windrush generation, Sajid Javid revealed today.
The new home secretary told MPs 32 of those were foreign national offenders while 31 were routine removals.
Javid said only one of the latter group was forcibly removed, while others had left after being told they had no right to be in the country.
He also did not rule out a potential future restructure of the Home Office, when asked if separating out immigration was on the cards.
Javid noted that the overall number of those thought to have been wrongly kicked out could rise as more cases are investigated.
He made the comments in his first appearance at the Home Affairs Select Committee after taking over the job from Amber Rudd, who quit after giving MPs false information about deportation targets.
Later in the hearing he was asked by committee chair Yvette Cooper whether he would consider “potentially restructuring the Home Office altogether and to separating out immigration from traditional home affairs of crime and policing”. Javid did not rule anything out.
He said: “Well I’ve just got here and my priority has been Windrush. I do want to take a much broader look at things.
“There are other priorities at the department, we just touched on Europe and how we’re going to deal with the settlement scheme… But there are so many things I’d like to do and look at, and my experience from other departments is that you’ve got to focus on the priorities so I’m sure at a later date we will discuss those in more detail.”
One Labour MP told Civil Service World’s sister publication PoliticsHome the admission on the number of deportations was “shocking but unsurprising” and demanded “root and branch reform” of the immigration system.
Thousands of people who were granted British citizenship when they came from the Caribbean between the 1940s and 1970s may have been denied their rights after being caught up in an illegal immigration crackdown.
Many of the so-called Windrush children have been threatened with deportation or stripped of their rights to work, benefits and healthcare.
But until Javid’s admission yesterday there remained question marks over whether any had in fact been wrongfully deported from Britain.
“So far we have found – and I will preface this right at the start that these are not final numbers, this is what we know at this point, 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,” he said.
He added: “Those 63 cases break down to 32 foreign national offenders and 31 administrative removals.”
But Javid said he had no idea if any Windrush citizens were currently being held in deportation centres – while the Home Office's immigration chief said the department had not found any cases.
Labour MP and committee member Stephen Doughty told PoliticsHome: “After weeks of two home secretaries, an immigration minister and officials claiming they didn’t know there had been any wrongful deportations or removals due to the Windrush scandal it is shocking but unsurprising to hear that this wasn’t the case – and that the problem may go much wider than Windrush.
“It’s also frankly shocking that the home secretary is still unable to put a figure on the number of wrongful detentions despite Home Office officials admitting they paid out £3.3m in compensation last year.
“This is a system in need of root and branch reform and an end to the policies and cuts to resources that have led to such a shambles and impact on real lives – which started when the prime minister was at the Home Office.”
‘I take this very personally’
Elsewhere, Javid insisted to the committee: “There is no question... that a number of people from that generation have been mistreated and have had to suffer through anxiety and so many other ways.
“That is completely unacceptable for me, for the prime minister, for the whole government.
“And I see it very much a part of my job to change those things as quickly as I can and as fairly and as compassionately as possible.”
And in a written submission to the committee he said more than 500 Windrush migrants have now been given the documents they need by Home Office.