The Prime Minister will meet Caribbean leaders this week amid growing pressure over the government's handling of visa issues for children of the famed Windrush generation, as a minister appeared to admit that deportations have already taken place.
Downing Street late last week refused a request from the high commissioners of 12 Caribbean nations for a meeting as it emerged that large numbers of people were being threatened with deportation, denied access to healthcare, had lost jobs or been made homeless because they do not have sufficient paperwork to prove they have the right to be in the UK.
This morning a government spokesman said the situation was a “matter of regret”, adding that Theresa May “deeply values the contribution these people have made” and had not personally been aware of the meeting request.
“She is clear that no one with the right to be here will be made to leave," he added.
It comes after immigration minister Caroline Nokes admitted there have been some deportations.
Asked by ITV News if some people have been deported as a result of not having the right papers, Nokes said: "There have been some horrendous situations which as a minister have appalled me."
The junior minister said she did not "know the numbers", adding: "What I’m determined to do going forward is say we will have no more of this. We want people to have confidence to come to the Home Office. We want to give them a message of reassurance, because I value these people."
On Friday, the Home Office issued guidance admitting that problems were coming to the fore because of newly tightened immigration rules, noting: “Recent changes to the law mean that if you wish to work, rent property or have access to benefits and services in the UK then you will need documents to demonstrate your right to be in the UK. The government believes this is a proportionate measure to maintain effective immigration control.”
It adds: “We recognise that this is causing problems for some individuals who have lost documents over the long period of time they have been in the UK… No one with the right to be here will be required to leave.”
Hundreds of thousands of people who arrived in the UK from Commonwealth countries in the 1950s and 1960s – known as the Windrush generation after a ship which carried people to Britain – were given indefinite leave to remain in 1971, but the Home Office did not issue paperwork at the time.
This morning Amber Rudd's fellow ministers went public with their own frustrations at her department's handling of the situation.
Housing, communities and local government secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: "I’m deeply concerned to hear about difficulties some of the Windrush generation are facing with their immigration status. This should not happen to people who have been longstanding pillars of our community. The government is looking into this urgently."
Meanwhile, international development secretary Penny Mordaunt told Radio 4's Today Programme: "What clearly needs to happen is we need to do a better job with the process that these individuals are having to go through.
"People should not be concerned about this – they have the right to stay and we should be reassuring them of that."
There was “absolutely no question of their right to remain” and gain access to services such as healthcare, she added.
This follows a letter to Theresa May, signed by more than 140 MPs, including Labour's Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, as well as Tories Sarah Wollaston, Bob Blackman and Peter Bottomley, calling on her to find a “swift resolution of this growing crisis”.
The letter was written by David Lammy, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on race and community, and urges the government to find an “effective, humane route” to resolve an immigration anomaly that has caused “undue stress, anxiety and suffering” to many.