Monday, April 16, 2018

Deporting Britons from Britain

A growing number of people who were born in the Caribbean and came to the UK as children during the 1950s and 60s have been experiencing severe problems with their immigration status because they have never formally naturalised or applied for a British passport. They are the children of the Windrush generation, who were invited to move to the UK by the British government to help with postwar rebuilding. All are here legally, but with the introduction of tighter immigration rules, they are being asked to prove their status, despite having lived in the UK for about 50 years. For some, the consequences have been traumatic. Some people moved to the UK before the countries in which they were born in became independent, and assumed that they were British.

The Migration Observatory at Oxford University, estimates that about 50,000 Commonwealth-born persons in the UK, who arrived before 1971, may not yet have regularised their residency status and could be vulnerable to these difficulties. Many may not yet know that they could face problems, since the issue arises only when they apply for a pension, for example, or have some other new engagement with UK authorities, and papers are requested. Some have been threatened with deportation to countries they left as children 50 years ago and have not returned to since. Others have been denied access to healthcare, lost jobs or been made homeless because they do not have sufficient paperwork to prove they have the right to be in the UK. Recent changes to the law mean that if you wish to work, rent property or have access to benefits and services in the UK then you will need documents to demonstrate your right to be in the UK.   Charities working with people in this situation expressed frustration that the government continued to suggest that individuals seek legal advice. That is often prohibitively expensive for people who have been told they are not permitted to work and are not eligible for benefits.

The UK government rejected a formal diplomatic request to discuss the immigration problems being experienced by some Windrush-generation British residents at this week’s meeting of the Commonwealth heads of government, rebuffing a request from representatives of 12 Caribbean countries for a meeting with the prime minister. The refusal has given Caribbean diplomats the impression that the UK government is not taking a sufficiently serious approach to the problem that is affecting large numbers of long-term UK residents who came to Britain as children.

 Satbir Singh, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), warned of the “significant discriminatory element” to the new immigration rules, which risk leading to decisions being made by NHS staff, employers and landlords based on racial profiling, influenced by skin colour and accents. 

A petition calling for an amnesty for anyone who arrived in the UK as a child between 1948 and 1971, and requesting that the government lowers the level of documentary proof required from people who have lived here since they were children, has been signed by 100,000 people in six days, triggering a possible debate in the Commons.

Kimberly McIntosh, of the race equality thinktank the Runnymede Trust, said: “It is shameful and abhorrent that this is where we are, 70 years after Windrush. We need a resolution for all of the Windrush Commonwealth long-term residents.”

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