Thu | Apr 26, 2018

UK about-turn! - Jamaicans under deportation threat handed lifeline

Published:Tuesday | April 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

With the threat of deportation hanging over their heads, thousands of undocumented Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals who migrated to the United Kingdom (UK) when they were children between the late 1940s and the early 1970s are to receive urgent help from the British government to confirm their status as citizens in the UK.

The Theresa May-led Conservative Party Government yesterday rushed to assuage a barrage of criticisms from Labour MPs in the UK regarding the administration's failure to address pressing concerns impacting the Windrush Generation. The Empire Windrush was the ship that brought workers from the West Indies, including Jamaica, to Britain in 1948.

Commonwealth citizens living in the UK had been granted indefinite leave to remain as stipulated in provisions under the 1971 Immigration Act.

However, the immigration law was amended in 2012,

making it a requirement for people to have documentation to work, rent property or access healthcare benefits. This posed a significant challenge to the Windrush Generation, leaving people fearful about their status.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd yesterday apologised for the "appalling" treatment meted out to the Windrush Generation by the Government.

"This is about individuals, people who have built their lives here in the UK and contributed so much to our society. I don't want them to feel unwelcome or to be in any doubt about their right to remain here. There is absolutely no question about their right to remain and I am very sorry for any confusion or anxiety felt," Rudd stated.

"The vast majority will already have documentation that proves their right to be here. For those that don't, I am announcing a new dedicated team that will be set up to help these people with getting the documentation they need and do it quickly," she declared.

Yesterday, David Lammy, UK Labour Party MP and Windrush descendant, said it was a "day of national shame".

He said it was "inhumane and cruel" that it had taken the government so long to act.

Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Lisa Hanna said the parliamentary Opposition was "heartened by the apology from the home secretary and his commitments to assist persons in obtaining updated and appropriate documentation confirming their citizenship across the United Kingdom".

Representatives of 12 Caribbean countries, including Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness are scheduled to hold talks with the UK government at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the UK this week. Holness is expected to hold bilateral talks with his UK counterpart Theresa May.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com