Diane Abbott in the Windrush debate

  • In the week of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, is the Home Secretary aware of how shameful it appears that we are treating the Windrush generation of Commonwealth citizens in this way? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) said, they came here after the second world war to help rebuild this country, and they worked hard and paid their taxes. There are few more patriotic groups of British citizens than the generation from the West Indies that we are talking about.

    The Home Secretary mentioned her special team. Is she aware that hundreds of these people have been trying to get their situations sorted out with their lawyers, presenting what information they have? Months later, however, things have not been resolved. How much confidence can people have in the special team when people with lawyers have been unable to resolve their situations? Why does she not simply issue an instruction to her officials today that no one in such a position can be deported until the case is clarified? There must also be an apology to any who were wrongfully deported, and the Government must consider compensation.

    Is the Home Secretary aware that in 2014 the Government removed the immigration protection that existed for the Commonwealth citizens who had come here previously? Theresa May was the then Home Secretary, and there was no parliamentary debate or scrutiny at the time. Theresa May could simply—

  • Order. [Interruption.] I do not need any advice from people chuntering from a sedentary position for their own satisfaction but to no wider benefit at all. The position is that Members should not refer to other Members by name—[Interruption.] The hon. Members who are wittering away from a sedentary position probably feel better for doing so, but it does not advance the interests of the House.

  • I apologise for naming the former Home Secretary in that way, but we are talking about a very serious matter. I believe the Home Secretary could now simply table a statutory instrument restoring the protections, which were removed without debate in 2014; there would be no objection from this side of the House.

    Finally, this policy and this scandal did not fall from the sky. It is a product of the bent of Government policy: the “hostile environment” for migrants generally. We now hear warm words about the contribution of Commonwealth migrants who have given their lives to this country, but warm words are not enough. We have to establish the facts on the deportations; we have to make apologies where necessary; and as the Commonwealth Heads of Government are gathered in London, we have to acknowledge what a disgrace it is that this Government have treated Commonwealth migrants in this way.

  • Nobody disputes that the people who came here as part of the Windrush cohort are highly valued here and have the legal right to stay. In this week in which we celebrate the Commonwealth, I urge hon. Members on both sides of the House to acknowledge the changes that we as a Government are making today to ensure that this cannot happen again and so that the new processes in place will indeed reach out and protect all Commonwealth citizens who need additional help to get their documentation in place.

    The right hon. Lady asks particularly about removals and detention, and I reassure her and the House that I have given an explicit instruction. In accordance with my wishes today, there will be no removals or detention as part of any assistance to help former Commonwealth citizens get their proper documentation in place.

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