A taskforce created by the Home Office to examine concerns related to the Windrush scandal is dealing with more than 100 cases just days after its creation, it has emerged.
Home secretary Amber Wood this week formed the unit to provide help and support to people who came to the UK before 1971 as part of the so-called Windrush generation, but who are now having their immigration status challenged under the Immigration Act 2014.
CSW’s sister title Politics Home reported that the new unit was looking into 113 cases, as fresh stories about longstanding UK residents being threatened with deportation or denied free NHS treatment because of uncertainty about their immigration status emerge on an hourly basis.
At the root of the scandal was a crackdown on illegal immigration under the coalition government, when Theresa May was home secretary. It followed the disposal of hard copies of landing cards that in some cases were the only record of an individual’s lawful arrival in the country.
Cases have been raised of people who came to the UK legally as children in the 1950s and 1960s facing immigration issues despite having lived in the UK all their adult lives. This is due to the requirement that people provide greater proof of their right to reside in order to work, rent property or access benefits and some public services.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, former Home Office director general of immigration enforcement David Wood said the scandal was “regrettable” and “clearly an unforeseen consequence of the policy”.
However Wood, who left the Home Office in 2015, insisted that the UK’s immigration enforcement regime had enough checks and balances to ensure that people wrongly threatened with deportation could explain their situation and avoid being removed from the country.
“I think that the Windrush people were told to register when they arrived in the UK, and some of them – for lots of reasons probably – didn’t do that,” he said.
He said people who had not left the UK or applied for passports since their arrival appeared particularly vulnerable to having their immigration status questioned.
“There is a problem and the recent disclosures have shown that,” he said.
“It would be very unlikely for one of the Windrush generation to be deported from the UK on the basis of these policies because there are appeals and court processes, and it would fairly quickly come to light that the person had a proper entitlement to be in the UK.”
Earlier this week former civil service head Lord Bob Kerslake said Home Office officials had warned Theresa May that the coalition’s tougher immigration enforcement stance would result in people who had the right to remain in the UK having their rights challenged.
The term Windrush generation derives from the former cruise ship the Empire Windrush, which was one of the first vessels to bring migrant workers to the UK from the West Indies in the postwar years.