The Home Office has announced it is setting up a dedicated contact point for people with questions about their immigration status amid increasing concern over the treatment of some immigrants who have been unable to prove their status.
Following reports that members of the so-called Windrush generation have lost out on employment, healthcare and housing because they have been unable to prove their immigration status, immigration minister Caroline Nokes said the government had “absolutely no intention of asking anyone to leave who has the right to remain here”.
Concerns have been raised following cases where people who came to the UK as children in the 1950s and 1960s were now facing immigration issues despite having lived in the UK all their adult lives. This is due to changes in immigration rules that require people to provide greater proof of residence to work, rent property or access benefits and some public services.
Cases highlighted by The Guardian include Michael Braithwaite, a special needs teaching assistant who lost his work after his employers ruled that he was an illegal immigrant because he did not have up-to-date identity documents, despite the fact he has lived in the UK for more than 50 years.
Responding to what she acknowledged was “a growing sense of anxiety among some people in the Windrush generation, who came here from Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean”, Nokes said yesterday that the Home Office was working to address concerns.
In an article in The Voice to mark this week’s Commonwealth leaders summit in London, the minister said that “the overwhelming majority of the Windrush generation already have the immigration documents they need, but some – through no fault of their own – have not”.
She added: “This issue came to light because measures introduced in recent years to make sure only those with a legal right to live here can access things like NHS treatment and rented accommodation, meaning people must now be able to prove their status.
“Having not previously needed documentation they have now found themselves without any way of proving their status today.”
She urged anyone who is unsure about their immigration status to apply for a card to confirm their status from the Home Office, which was "currently establishing a dedicated contact point for people with questions and applications".
She added: “We will handle every case with sensitivity and will help people understand what is required and help them gather the information they need.
“People don’t need formal records. Any information that people can provide, from schools they attended to places of work, family or former addresses will help build this picture.”
In a tweet accompanying the article, the Home Office said Nokes “dispels the myth that this government is clamping down on Commonwealth citizens”.
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes dispels the myth that this Government is clamping down on Commonwealth citizens, read more: https://t.co/ohADdlmRkR
— Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) April 15, 2018
The article comes after the prime minister reportedly agreed to a request for talks with Caribbean officials over the issue at the Commonwealth summit - having first rejected it.
According to The Guardian, No 10 Downing Street was asked by representatives of 12 Caribbean countries for a meeting with Theresa May, as part of this week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government summit. Although officials were initially told this “would not be possible”, it has now been reported a meeting will take place.
Guy Hewitt, the Barbados high commissioner, said: “We did make a request to the CHOGM summit team for a meeting to be held between the prime minister and the Commonwealth Caribbean heads of government who will be here for the CHOGM and regrettably they have advised us that that is not possible.”
In a letter to prime minister Theresa May, more than 140 MPs from all parties have expressed concern about what the call a “growing crisis”. The letter, written by Labour MP David Lammy, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on race and community, called on the government to resolve the issue, which Lammy said had caused “undue stress, anxiety and suffering”.