The Windrush scandal
and its effect
on EU residents

On Monday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd made an apology about the Home Office’s treatment of the Windrush generation.

In her speech, she also acknowledged that current immigration policies, brought in by her predecessor, Theresa May, have had a negative effect on foreign-born residents, even those who have lived here for more than 50 years.

Rudd confirmed that ‘steps intended to combat illegal migration have had an unintended, and sometimes devastating, impact on people from the Windrush generation, who are here legally, but have struggled to get the documentation to prove their status.’

This admission comes after more than a week of argument in the House of Commons and a personal apology to Caribbean leaders from Prime Minister Theresa May.

The Home Secretary set out her plan to remedy the situation:

‘First, I will waive the citizenship fee for anyone in the Windrush generation who wishes to apply for citizenship. This applies to those who have no current documentation, and also to those who have it.

‘Second, I will waive the requirement to carry out a Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK test.

‘Third, the children of the Windrush generation who are in the UK in most cases are British citizens. However, where that is not the case and they need to apply for naturalisation, I shall waive the fee.

‘Fourth, I will ensure that those who made their lives here but have now retired to their country of origin, are able to come back to the UK. Again, I will waive the cost of any fees associated with this process and will work with our embassies and High Commissions to make sure people can easily access this offer.’

‘In effect this means anyone from the Windrush generation who now wants to become a British citizen will be able to do so.’

Rudd also promised to set up a helpline, with experienced case workers on hand to answer questions for anyone who believes they may be affected.

‘Given people who have been here for more than 20 years will usually go on a 10-year route to settlement, I am ensuring that people who arrived after 1973 but before 1988 can also access the Windrush taskforce, so they can access the support and assistance needed to establish their claim to be here legally,‘ she added.

In conclusion, she promised: ‘Where people have suffered loss, they will be compensated.’

But as yet no official figures have yet been released about how much money will be made available. The current fees are as follows:

  • Applications for indefinite leave to remain:  £2,389
  • Adults who wish to register their nationality as a British overseas citizen or British subject: £901
  • The charge for naturalisation: £1,330
  • The language and ‘Life in the UK’ tests: £200
  • Owing a passport (not a requirement for citizenship but essential for overseas travel): £72.50.

There has also not yet been clarification on who will be reimbursed – and by how much. While some people have already been threatened with expulsion, others say they have lost earnings because they couldn’t prove their citizenship, or missed important family events like a relative’s funeral because they couldn’t get a visa. What price will the Home Office put on the negative effect on their mental health?

For instance, Nick Broderick, 63, who arrived in Britain when he was a toddler, says he prepared a ‘suicide kit’ when he thought he was about to be sent to Jamaica and claims he has paid out £30,000 fighting his deportation.

If his case is typical and he is offered a total refund of his expenses, the package of redress payments could reach a substantial amount of taxpayers’ money. At time of writing, there are more than 200 cases in progress at the Home Office.

As well as the Windrush claimants, the Migration Observatory warned that there could be as many as 57,00 Commonwealth-born, long-term residents in the UK who have never formalised their status. This includes 15,000 Jamaicans, and 13,000 Indians. Will they be expected to demonstrate their legal right to live in the UK?

The Windrush debacle undermines trust in the Home Office’s ability to administer its own rules. Fear about Home Office capability extends to those EU nationals residing in the UK.

Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian PM who leads the Brexit co-ordinating panel, said earlier this week: ‘After the Windrush scandal … there is a lot of anxiety (among) our EU citizens living in Britain that they could have the same experience.’

He was speaking at a presentation in Brussels, where the Home Office were demonstrating a new smartphone app for use in claiming ‘settled status’. They were forced to admit that the app wouldn’t work on an Apple iPhone.

Verhofstadt called for a quick, simple way to confer rights immediately rather than make people wait for confirmation.

 

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