David Lammy has accused Theresa May of shedding “crocodile tears” over the Windrush generation scandal, saying a report warned her four years ago what was happening.
Lammy said the 2014 report, produced when May was home secretary, warned of a “virtually invisible and rarely acknowledged group” who had uncertain immigration status despite having lived in Britain for decades and were being caught up in an immigration clampdown.
The MP said this showed the removal of people who came to Britain decades ago was not “a product of bureaucratic error or overzealous officials” but the “direct result” of May’s policies.
May has said people wrongly forced to leave could get compensation “where appropriate” and offered a third apology to Commonwealth leaders in as many days over how the Government has treated Windrush Britons.
But Lammy said: “The apologies made by the Prime Minister are merely crocodile tears given that her department was fully aware of the human cost that these policies would have...
“It is extraordinary that the Home Office ignored yet more warnings about the impact that their pernicious policies would have.”
He added: “The Government has tried to dismiss the Windrush crisis as a product of bureaucratic error or overzealous officials but in reality it is a direct result of the hostile environment policy introduced by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary.”
The Windrush generation, named after the ship Empire Windrush that brought some of the first to Britain in 1948, has lived legally in the UK for over half a century.
But many have been treated as illegal immigrants under new policy because they can’t produce evidence of their right to remain - a problem compounded by the Home Office destroying thousands of their landing cards in 2010.
There has been mounting pressure on May for her tightening of immigration law - to create what she dubbed a “hostile environment” on the issue - when she was running the Home Office.
The 2014 report Lammy identified was produced by the Legal Action Group (LAG).
In the report, interviewees express their “shock and disbelief” at suddenly discovering their immigration status was in doubt.
They had each been in the UK for decades and many had driver’s licences, national insurance numbers and children born in Britain.
One, a 53-year-old working grandfather who came to Britain from Jamaica in 1973, was suspended by his employers when he could not prove he was allowed to work in the country, which they had been required to check under the new rules.
He had lost his Jamaican passport with his ‘indefinite leave to remain’ stamp and did not replace it as he assumed it was not necessary and baulked at the £600 fee.
The LAG report recommended the Home Office create a specialist unit to deal with Commonwealth citizens affected.
The report received media coverage at the time and the Home Office responded to it in the press.
Journalist Fiona Bawdon, who wrote the LAG report, told HuffPost: “However shocked it professes to be at the Windrush scandal, the Government can’t say it wasn’t warned.
“The impact of its hostile environment was already clear when I looked at this issue in 2014. I spoke to people who had lived, worked and paid tax in the UK for decades, who lost their jobs or ended up street homeless, as a result...
“An awful lot of personal misery and political embarrassment could have been spared if Theresa May had taken the concerns seriously then.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “People from the Windrush generation are of course here legally. The Home Secretary has recognised the huge contribution they have made to our society, and has apologised unreservedly to them.
“The vast majority will already have documentation that proves their right to be here. For those that don’t, we have established a new dedicated team to quickly help them get the documentation they need and ensure this is resolved as soon as possible.”