David Lammy has called Theresa May’s apology to the Windrush generation “crocodile tears” and says the Government ignored warnings in 2014 about the impact of her immigration policy.
The Prime Minister said this week she was “genuinely sorry” about the anxiety caused by the Home Office threatening the children of Commonwealth citizens with deportation, and has said those treated unfairly will receive compensation.
But the Labour MP, who has spearheaded the campaign on behalf of the Windrush generation, says the situation is a result of Mrs May’s “pernicious policies” as Home Secretary.
A report published in 2014 by charity Legal Action Group, titled Chasing Status: If Not British, Then What Am I?, highlighted the plight of thousands of long-term UK residents who were unable to prove their immigration status, or had “irregular” status.
The research was carried out in the wake of the then-Home Secretary’s Immigration Act, which came with a pledge to make Britain a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants.
Although it did not mention the Windrush generation by name, the report referred to migrants who came to the UK from the Caribbean in the same era.
It warned of: “A virtually invisible – and rarely acknowledged – group, who can’t easily prove their legal status (because of lost documents or poor government record-keeping) or whose status is ‘irregular’ for a variety of legitimate reasons.
“Rather than living ‘outside formal society’, they are often at the heart of it: friends, neighbours, workmates and valued, long-standing members of our communities.
“And far from being ‘difficult for the government to reach them through tough laws’, this group is being badly hit by legislation aimed at cracking down on illegal migrants.”
Many in the Windrush generation, who arrived from the Caribbean between the late 1940s and 1970s, have no record of their status and have found it challenged under recent laws that require them to provide proof of near-continuous residence.
It has also now emerged that thousands of landing card slips recording the arrival of Windrush-era immigrants were destroyed by the Home Office several years ago.
The Home Office said in 2014 it would offer support to people with “uncertain immigration status”, but that it was “up to anyone who does not have an established immigration status to regularise their position.”
Mr Lammy said: “The Government has tried to dismiss the Windrush crisis as a product of bureaucratic error or overzealous officials but in reality it is a direct result of the hostile environment policy introduced by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary.
“It is extraordinary that the Home Office ignored yet more warnings about the impact that their pernicious policies would have.
“The apologies made by the Prime Minister are merely crocodile tears given that her department was fully aware of the human cost that these policies would have.
“It is time for a proper and independent review of our immigration policy and the hostile environment”.