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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Windrush row: Calls for investigation into landing card destruction

The cards had been used by officials to help prove Windrush migrants' right to remain

A man sits on a bench next to a sign on Windrush Square in Brixton, London. Simon Dawson/ Reuters
A man sits on a bench next to a sign on Windrush Square in Brixton, London. Simon Dawson/ Reuters

UK prime minister Theresa May is facing calls for an independent investigation over the destruction of thousands of landing cards belonging to Windrush migrants during her time as home secretary.

Earlier this week it was revealed that landing cards filled in by migrants from the Caribbean and elsewhere arriving in Britain after the Second World War had been destroyed by the Home Office in 2010.

The children of the “Windrush generation”, named after Empire Windrush ship which brought the first wave of post-war migrants from the Caribbean to the UK in 1948, have been caught up in a tightening of immigration rules, which has led to many of them being erroneously declared illegal immigrants.

Windrush children, having entered Britain before 1973, are legally entitled to live in the UK. Many of those who arrived in the 1950s and 1960s had travelled on their parents’ passports. The landing cards had been used by officials to establish an arrival date and help prove the migrants had the right to remain.

Lord Kerslake, a former head of the UK civil service, said an investigation was needed to find out who took the decision to destroy the cards, which had been stored in Croydon, south London.

Mrs May denied responsibility during a heated debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday, saying the decision had been taken in 2009 when the Labour Party were in power.

However, a Downing Street spokesperson said later on that the decision to destroy the cards was taken in October 2010 after the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government- under which Mrs May had served as home secretary- had come to power.

The spokesperson said Mrs May had not been involved in the decision, which was taken at official level.

Newly arrived Jamaican immigrants on board the 'Empire Windrush' at Tilbury, on 22 June 1948. (Getty Images)
Newly arrived Jamaican immigrants on board the 'Empire Windrush' at Tilbury, on 22 June 1948. (Getty Images)

But the prime minister is facing further criticism over the coalition government’s policy to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants in Britain.

Discussing the Windrush row, Lord Kerslake told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that ministers had been “deeply unhappy” about the strategy, which he said had been seen in Whitehall as "almost reminiscent of Nazi Germany".

As part of the “hostile environment” strategy, the Home Office trialled a billboard campaign on vans telling illegal immigrants to “go home or face arrest”. The controversial scheme was later scrapped in 2013 following cross-party criticism.

Labour Party politician and campaigner David Lammy has accused Mrs May of making “cruel and inhumane” mistakes while she was home secretary and has demanded she take responsibility for the crisis.

Mr Lammy said the removal of legal protection for the Windrush children had had “far-reaching consequences for thousands of people”.

Since the row broke out, stories have emerged of migrants, who have lived in the UK for the majority of their lives, being barred from accessing key services as well as being threatened with deportation.

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Read more:

The current may be weaker, but 'rivers of blood' still flow in Britain

UK’s Windrush scandal prompts Brexit fears for EU citizens

UK’s May apologises over treatment of ‘Windrush’ migrants

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The case of a 63-year-old man who was reportedly denied cancer care on the National Health Service has been discussed in Parliament.

Albert Thompson (not his real name), who came to the UK from Jamaica in 1973, was told he would have to pay £54,000 (Dh282,000) to have treatment for prostate cancer unless he could prove he had the right papers.

Mrs May said that Mr Thompson should never have been denied medical care and would now be getting the treatment he needs in response to a question from Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament.

But Mr Thompson’s Member of Parliament Chuka Umunna said that this was “incorrect”.

Mr Umunna told Parliament: “He needs radiotherapy treatment but my constituent hasn’t received his treatment and if there are any plans that have been made for him to get this treatment then he has certainly not been informed of it.

“That is a fact and to say otherwise is wrong.”

Mrs May apologised a second time for the crisis on Wednesday, which has clouded a summit of Commonwealth heads in London this week.

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