The issues surrounding the ‘Windrush’ people are not a new problem that has suddenly arisen, MP Helen Hayes told Home Secretary Amber Rudd in a House of Commons debate.

“It has been going on for years, and it is a consequence of Government policy which lacks any grace or compassion and which, in its intolerance, looks for any possible reason why people who have come here from overseas should not be allowed to stay.”

Her comments came during a debate on the immigration status of Windrush children – named after the ship Empire Windrush which brought one of the first large groups of post-war West Indian immigrants from Jamaica to London in 1948.

British Caribbean people who came to the United Kingdom in the period after World War II are sometimes referred to as the Windrush generation.

Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood told Amber Rudd:

“As the proud Member of Parliament for Coldharbour Lane in Brixton, where many Windrush passengers came to look for work and make their homes, I can tell the Home Secretary that it is entirely wrong for her to present this as a new problem that has suddenly arisen.”

Helen Hayes asked the Home Secretary: “Will she now commit to looking at the systemic problems with UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) and reform the immigration system so that people who have made their lives in this country and contributed so much can live with security and dignity in their old age?”

Amber Rudd told Helen Hayes: “That is exactly what I want this country to look like—the sort of country where the hon. lady’s constituents can have confidence here.

“I point out to her that it was of course Labour who, in 2008, introduced the labour market test so that people had to evidence their status, so this has not started entirely with us.

“But if we want to live in a country where there is a difference between legal and illegal residence, then it is absolutely right to have a system that addresses that.”

In a separate Commons debate Helen Hayes told Amber Rudd:

“I have been contacted by lawyers representing constituents of mine who are members of the Windrush generation who have been phoning the new helpline the Home Secretary has established, and they report that the helpline is outsourced to a private contractor.

“They also represent constituents who are so fearful of the Home Office that they do not want to disclose all their details in that first contact but want to seek advice anonymously before proceeding.

“They are told by the helpline, however, that they cannot do that. “When a lawyer queried this, he was told: ‘should the department find they did not have a right to Citizenship…then…they could look at other possibilities’.

“Does she understand the depth of the lack of trust in her Department among members of the Windrush generation, will she assure the House that no enforcement action will be taken on the basis of phone calls to the helpline, and will she say what she is doing to rebuild the trust and confidence of people who are so fearful that they do not even want to give their names to her Department?

Responding: Amber Rudd said: “I am sorry to hear that example. I can say, having today met the caseworkers operating the taskforce, that their intent when they say ‘Look at other possibilities’ is to look at other possibilities to help.

“I ask her to convey that to her constituents, because it is their genuine endeavour.

“I made that point in my statement as well: there is no question of removing people. I know it is a fear, but it is not happening, and I urge her to communicate that back to her constituents and the lawyers.

“I should add that when I initially called—immediately—to have the taskforce and phone line set up, it was a phone line at a call centre for about 24 hours, possibly longer; it is now properly run and staffed by the Home Office and by professionals, as one would expect.”

Windrush Children (Immigration Status) (16 Apr 2018) .

Windrush– in the House of Commons at 4:33 pm on 23rd April 2018. Sources: TheyWorkForYou / Hansard

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