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Theresa May's apologetic letter to Windrush families

APOLOGY: The prime minister has apologised to the Windrush generation

PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has apologised to Britain’s African Caribbean community over the Windrush immigration fiasco.

On April 17, May apologised to leaders and representatives of Caribbean countries during a meeting at 10 Downing Street after the controversy which saw members of the Windrush Generation of immigrants struggling to prove the British citizenship status they previously took for granted.

But in an open letter to Britain’s black community written exclusively for The Voice she said: “We have let you down and I am deeply sorry.”

The prime minister also said she acknowledged the role that Windrush generation immigrants had played in helping to shape Britain and wanted to apologise to the families of those affected.

She said: “You will know about the problems some members of the Windrush generation have had accessing work, renting property, receiving benefits or NHS care.

“Some have even received letters from the Home Office suggesting that they are not entitled to be in this country and should make arrangements to leave.

“This should never have happened. I am writing to apologise, explain how this happened and set out what we are doing to put it right.”

Explaining the background to the issue, she said: “The 1971 Immigration Act gave Commonwealth citizens who came to the UK before 1973 leave to remain in the country indefinitely.

WINDRUSH: Many people from the Caribbean feel let down by the immigration scandal

“But the government at the time didn’t issue those given leave to remain any documentation. Many people have acquired such documentation over time, for example by applying for a passport, but some never have.

“In recent years, governments have made a number of changes to the law to try to make it harder for people who have entered the country illegally to carry on living here - for example, harder to get a job, open a bank account, get a driving licence or rent a flat.

“These measures were never intended to affect members of the Windrush generation - all of whom are here legally. But, very regrettably, they have affected those who - through no fault of their own - never acquired any documentation.”

Reiterating her apology, May said: “Can I say again, this should never have happened. You have not just built your lives here, you have helped to build this country. You should be thanked for that, not treated like people who have broken the law. We have let you down and I am deeply sorry. But apologies alone are not good enough. We must urgently right this historic wrong.”

Outlining how she planned to tackle the issue, the prime minister said: “Last week the Home Office set up a taskforce with a helpline and the support of experienced case workers. Anyone who wants to obtain documentation can meet with these case workers in person and be issued with that paperwork free of charge through an accelerated process.

“On Monday, the home secretary announced further steps to enable the Windrush generation to acquire the status you should always have had – British citizenship – quickly, at no cost and with assistance through the process.

COMMONWEALTH: Theresa May speaks at the formal opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Anyone who came to this country before 1973 will be able to apply. You will not need to provide definitive documentary proof of date of entry and of continuous residence, and it will not cost you a penny to take up this offer. There will be none of the usual tests around knowledge of language and life. We will also waive the fee for any of your children in the UK who are not yet British citizens and who want to apply for naturalisation.

“Put simply, anyone from the Windrush generation who now wants to become a British citizen will be able to do so.”

She also outlined plans for compensation for those who had been caught up in trying to prove their British citizenship after several years of living abroad.

“Those of you who made your lives here but whose status may have lapsed, will now be able to come back to visit or resume your lives here. So, for example, if you retired to your country of origin, we will work with our embassies and high commissions to make sure you can easily access this offer – and there will be no fees for this process.

“Where you have suffered loss as a result of your treatment to date, you will also be able to apply for compensation. A new scheme to deliver this will be set up and run independently, so it is fully trusted and transparent.”

May concluded: “None of this can fully make up for the unacceptable treatment which some of you have endured. But we will do whatever it takes to end the anxieties that you face and to make the strongest and proudest statement of your British identity. This country is your home and Britain would not be Britain without you.”

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