The prime minister told a meeting with Caribbean leaders she wanted to dispel any impression that her government was “in some sense clamping down on Commonwealth citizens, particularly those from the Caribbean”.
“I take this issue very seriously. The home secretary apologised in the House of Commons yesterday for any anxiety caused. And I want to apologise to you today. Because we are genuinely sorry for any anxiety that has been caused,” she said.
“Those who arrived from the Caribbean before 1973 and lived here permanently without significant periods of time away in the last 30 years have the right to remain in the UK, as do the vast majority of long-term residents who arrived later. I don’t want anybody to be in any doubt about their right to remain here in the United Kingdom, May declared.”
She pledged to compensate anyone left out of pocket after it emerged that some people had lost their jobs and benefit entitlements, and others had had to take specialist legal advice to avoid deportation.
“We would also like to reassure you that there will be no removals or detention as part of any assistance to help these citizens get their proper documentation in place, she added.”
Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in addressing the issue at the meeting, said ther heads of government "were particularly encouraged by your Home Secretary’s statement in Parliament yesterday, which not only recognized the invaluable contribution of Caribbean nationals to the rebuilding of the United Kingdom after World War II, but also animates a process which will ensure that these persons who arrived pre-1973 will have their cases reviewed with haste and with the required sensitivity."
Prime Minister Holness added:"We think however that it is extremely important to have procedural steps clearly outlined and widely shared to ensure that people are aware of the requirements; that the evidentiary burden is reduced, the application process dramatically simplified and that pre-1973 Commonwealth Caribbean migrants currently detained as illegal immigrants are released and that those deported are afforded the necessary UK assistance in having their cases urgently reviewed and their rights restored. We would like to encourage the UK government to use records at its disposal such as school, health, and tax records and that there be a presumption of legal residence on the part of the Windrush Generation while their cases are being reviewed and that these individuals continue to benefit from access to medical care, employment, and other services."
After the meeting, the Jamaican Prime Minister told the Guardinan that he accepted May’s apology, stating: “I believe that the right thing is being done at this time.”
On the matter of whether Cartibbean nationals were deported as a result of paperwork issues,828 Holness said: “I asked the direct question of the prime minister. She was not able to say definitively that that was not the case.
“But, they are assuring us that they are checking the records that they have to make sure that that is not the case. If persons were deported, they have told us that they have established a hotline ... and they are encouraging persons who may fit that category to call it.”
- Countries: CARICOM