Labour’s David Lammy has accused Theresa May of making the “cruel and inhumane” mistake of ending protections for longstanding residents that would have prevented Windrush generation children being deported.
The Tottenham MP said May “must take responsibility” for the crisis, in which children who came to Britain from the Commonwealth decades ago have suddenly had their residency revoked.
He said the removal of legal protections for those affected, passed under a Labour government, “was evidently a serious mistake with far-reaching consequences for thousands of people.”
The changes happened while May was Home Secretary.
Last night the government said the number of Windrush cases being investigated rose from 49 to 113.
May wrote to Lammy on Wednesday in response to a letter sent on Monday, co-signed by more than 140 MPs, demanding a “swift resolution of this growing crisis”.
The PM replied: “Let me be clear: people who have spent a lifetime here are entitled to be here and access the public services to which they have contributed.”
It came after reports that some Windrush generation children had been prevented from accessing lifesaving treatment on the NHS due to officials’ doubts over their residency.
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Read the letters in full
Lammy also urged the PM to back calls for swift compensation for those affected.
In her reply to his first letter, May told Lammy she agreed no Windrush children would be left out of pocket by the scandal.
Lammy said: “The Prime Minister must take responsibility and acknowledge that this crisis is a direct result of the hostile environment policy that she implemented at the Home Office.
″[May] must immediately set out how the Government will be compensating the Windrush children for the suffering they have endured at the hands of her Government that has treated them in such a cruel and inhumane manner.”
He added: “This compensation must be applied retrospectively to all of those Windrush children who have spent money on legal fees and legal advice, documentation fees, lost their jobs or been denied access to benefits and public services including our National Health Service.
″[May] must also personally apologise to each individual who has been affected as a first step in rebuilding relations with our Commonwealth allies and the Caribbean diaspora in this country.”
Lammy also called on the PM to back a public inquiry into the scandal, and he demanded answers to ten key questions, below.
It comes after May rushed to defend herself from claims that Home Office officials destroyed landing cards used by Windrush children in the 40s and 50s during her time as Home Secretary.
She used a “mic drop” moment in the Commons to claim the destruction of the cards occurred under Labour in 2009.
But the PM was later accused of “misleading” Parliament with her denial, after it emerged that no Labour minister had been involved in the decision which was taken by frontline staff on data protection grounds.
Lammy’s 10 key questions for May over Windrush
1) Given that your letter confirms that people who have spent a lifetime here are entitled to be here, for what reason has your government harassed them, stripped them of their rights and threatened them with deportation back to Caribbean, including Paulette Wilson who has lived here for 51 years and actually worked in the House of Commons for many years?
2) Given that your letter confirms that these individuals have not previously been “outside the law”, why has your Government treated Windrush children as though they are outside the law and as though they are illegal immigrants or indeed criminals in their own country?
3) Given that your letter confirms that these individuals have a right to access public services, for what reason have people been stripped of their right to work, denied access to benefits, healthcare and public services?
4) How many Windrush children have been deported or threatened with deportation? It is your government that has deported these people or threatened these deportations. Your government must know this number and must publish this information immediately.
5) How many Windrush children have been imprisoned in immigration detention centres in their own country, for how long and for what reason?
6) Will you now issue a full and unreserved public apology for the way in which Windrush children have been treated and personally apologise to each individual who has been affected? I would urge you to do so as a first step in rebuilding relations with our Commonwealth allies and the Caribbean diaspora in this country.
7) Why is your government still asking Windrush children to provide documentation to prove their immigration status when the Home Office itself destroyed these documents.
8) How much money will be set aside to compensate each of the Windrush children affected by this crisis, when will it be made available and how will it be distributed?
9) Will this compensation be applied retrospectively to all of those Windrush children who have a) spent money on legal fees and legal advice b) documentation fees c) lost their jobs d) been denied access to benefits and public services and e) incurred other fees?
10) Will you now make exemptions for these Windrush children and guarantee their status today instead of placing the burden of proof on these individuals?