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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Windrush scandal: Labour blames May for 'hostile environment'

Jeremy Corbyn calls on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to resign during PMQs

<p>Britain&#39;s Home Secretary Amber Rudd called to answer emergency question in parliament. Tolga&nbsp;Akmen / AFP PHOTO</p>
<p>Britain&#39;s Home Secretary Amber Rudd called to answer emergency question in parliament. Tolga&nbsp;Akmen / AFP PHOTO</p>

Theresa May, the British prime minister, was accused of wilfully ignoring official warnings that the so-called Windrush generation of Carribean migrants would be targeting in a “hostile environment” immigration policy she introduced while interior minister.

During Prime Minister's questions, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn asked Mrs May to explain why she did not act on internal government memos warning about potential discrimination caused by the policies, which are the focus of a massive political scandal.

The Labour leader drew the prime minister further into the controversy by citing a private memo written by Home Secretary Amber Rudd to Mrs May. In it, Ms Rudd said she would give officials more “teeth” to find and deport thousands of additional illegal migrants.

The prime minister “knew full well of the problems the Windrush generations were facing” as Mrs May introduced the policy when she was home secretary, Mr Corbyn said.

“The current home secretary inherited a failing policy and made it worse. Isn’t it time she took responsibility and resigned?” Mr Corbyn asked.

Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, warned the prime minister not to "hide" behind the Cabinet or civil servants.

The immigrants at the centre of the scandal are referred to as the "Windrush generation" after the British ship MV Empire Windrush, which transported Caribbean passengers to the UK before 1971 as a symbol of multiculturalism and tolerance. Britain’s grand gesture is now, decades later, being viewed by some as a travesty of justice as 57,000 of the 500,000 immigrants are at risk of deportation.

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Mrs May rejected Labour's criticism, arguing Windrush immigrants face problems now, decades after their arrival in the UK, because not all obtained documentary evidence of their right to remain when they arrived in Britain decades ago.

Mrs May also faced calls to sack Home Secretary Amber Rudd, but the prime minister has apologised to Windrush victims and offered compensation for those who have been deported, lost jobs or homes, or who have otherwise been caught up in the debacle.

Later on Wednesday, Mrs Rudd told a parliamentary committee that she was not aware of the scale of the Windrush problem until a few months ago, and thought it was limited to a few individual cases.

Ms Rudd said she deeply regretted that she did not realise it was a systemic problem until recently.

Ms Rudd is expected to set out details of a compensation scheme for Windrush immigrants shortly.

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