Emma Lewell-Buck MP: Hostile policy to immigration and asylum seekers must end

Recently many of you will have read or seen the latest scandal to hit the headlines regarding the Government's treatment of Commonwealth and British citizens known as the '˜Windrush Generation'.

Thursday, 19th April 2018, 11:59 am
Updated Thursday, 19th April 2018, 12:01 pm
Jamaican immigrants being welcomed by RAF officials from the Colonial Office after the ex-troopship HMT "Empire Windrush" landed them at Tilbury in 1948.

The Windrush Generation were invited here as citizens to rebuild our country in the post-War period, now after decades of working here, paying their taxes and contributing hugely to our country they and their children are treated now, by this Government, as illegal aliens.

This situation was created by the government who quietly changed the law in 2014, when Theresa May was Home Secretary.

The Immigration Act removed the protections that had been put in place for Commonwealth citizens, precisely to prevent this type of scandal developing. The protections were removed by the Tories without parliamentary scrutiny or debate.

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It would now be a simple matter for Theresa May to put down a Statutory Instrument to restore those protections. All that is required is some good will on the part of the Prime Minister. Without these protections all protestations of good faith on the part of the Government will ring hollow.

This situation has caused immense distress to the people concerned, widespread concern throughout the country and caused international disquiet.

This policy does not enhance this Government’s or country’s reputation for fair dealing and honouring our word. We invited people to come here on the basis that they would be equal citizens. Now this Government wants to deport them.

This gross injustice is not an accident or a one-off – it is a direct result of the ‘hostile environment’ policy that successive Tory Home Secretaries and Tory Governments have fostered. The hostile environment inevitably means that suspicion is cast on people who have every right to be here.

Some of these cases have arisen because people have been refused free treatment on the NHS, or because of a change of job or address, and their employer or landlord has reported them as they are obliged to do under the law, as part of the ‘hostile environment’. The entire hostile environment policy of the Home Office and how it treats immigrants and asylum seekers must end.

I am pleased that following an urgent question by my Labour colleague David Lammy MP, the Prime Minister talked to leaders of Caribbean countries to reassure them that thousands of people who arrived from the Commonwealth decades ago as children would not be deported.

However, it should not have come to this, many of these cases were highlighted many months ago and the Government has dragged its heels and pushed ahead with its far right rhetoric that sadly is taking hold in the UK.

Initially the Home Secretary assured MPs in the House of Commons that nobody has been deported however, Government Ministers now claim they do not know how many Windrush citizens have been deported, this is simply unacceptable.

The Government must act swiftly to reverse the damage they created.