Home Secretary ‘appalled and shocked’ at treatment of Windrush immigrants
Sajid Javid has pledged to bring a “fresh set of eyes” to the immigration system, as he spoke of his shock at hearing the ordeals suffered by victims of the Windrush scandal.
The Home Secretary said he was “appalled” at the treatment of Anthony Bryan and Paulette Wilson, saying something had gone “massively wrong”.
Last month Mr Bryan and Ms Wilson told the Joint Committee on Human Rights how they were detained and feared they would be removed from the UK despite having lived in the country for decades.
Appearing at the same committee, Mr Javid (pictured) apologised to the pair, saying they had both asked for help and did not get it.
He said: “I found listening to that very moving and thought-provoking about what lessons we can learn.
“No-one should be treated like that. What happened was profoundly wrong.”
Mr Javid was appointed Home Secretary in April after Amber Rudd resigned following controversy over Windrush and removal targets.
He told the committee: “Because I am new to the job I hope to use it as an advantage to bring a fresh set of eyes to what happened, what went wrong in these cases, because obviously something massively went wrong.
“What’s happened has happened, we are all sorry for it, but how can we try to make sure nothing like it happens to others?”
He said his early impression was that the immigration system is not set up for dealing with those who, like members of the Windrush generation, have “deemed leave” to be in the country.
Mr Javid said: “I don’t think that’s been taken into account in the system.
“Even when that individual comes into contact and says ‘I need to get some documentation to prove my status’, the system puts the entire burden of proof on the individuals.”
While the need to keep and provide documents would be commonplace for more recently arrived migrants, the Home Secretary said there is “absolutely no reason” why those from the Windrush generation would expect the requirement to apply to them.
“Why should they have to do that?” he said. “They are absolutely rightly here. I think in many cases people were being asked for proof they couldn’t possibly provide.
“And then even once they were being asked for the proof, there was no help provided.”
Ministers faced a furious backlash over the treatment of the Windrush generation – named after a ship that brought migrants to Britain from the Caribbean in 1948.
Commonwealth citizens who arrived before 1973 were automatically granted indefinite leave to remain under the 1971 Immigration Act.
But some of those who arrived in the years after the Second World War have been challenged over their status.
People who have been living legally in the UK for decades have lost their jobs, been denied access to NHS treatment, benefits and pensions, had their driving licences withdrawn and been warned they face deportation.
Officials have identified 63 cases where people may have been wrongly removed or deported as a result of the scandal.
An exercise is also being carried out to establish how many people were incorrectly detained.
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