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Windrush row: Javid’s apology overshadowed by new removal figures

Home secretary to apologise to 18 people but Home Office says 164 may have been wrongly told to leave
A total of 164 Windrush generation people may have been wrongly removed or detained, according to detailed analysis by the Home Office of almost 12,000 immigration cases.
The home secretary has said he will apologise to 18 Windrush people who the government believes were “most likely to have suffered detriment because their right to be in the UK was not recognised”. The narrowness of the official apology was immediately condemned as worrying by Amnesty.
The new estimate of the number of people deported in error to the Caribbean was published on Tuesday as part of the government’s commitment to provide monthly updates on how it is handling the continuing fallout from the Windrush scandal.
A review of 11,800 cases identified 18 where the home secretary said he believed his “department is most likely to have acted wrongfully”. Eleven of those 18 voluntarily left the country, some having been served with enforcement papers informing them they had no right to be in the UK; seven of them were detained but subsequently released without being removed.
In each of those cases the individual is believed to have come from the Caribbean before 1973 and stayed in Britain permanently but they were unable to prove they were a permanent resident. Home Office staff have managed to make contact with 14 of the 18 people, and letters of apology from Javid have been sent to them. Officials are trying to contact the other four.
Any who were not in the UK will be given the option to return and will be eligible for compensation. No details about the nationalities of those affected were released.
However, the Home Office acknowledged that it was looking at 164 cases where people had been either wrongly detained, forcibly removed from the country or mistakenly told they must leave the country. Officials said the precise circumstances in which some of the 164 had been detained or encouraged to leave were not yet known, which they said is why official apologies were only being made to 18 people for the moment.
Javid said: “The experiences faced by some members of the Windrush generation are completely unacceptable and I am committed to righting the wrongs of the past. I would like to personally apologise to those identified in our review and am committed to providing them with the support and compensation they deserve.
“We must do everything we can to ensure that nothing like this happens again, which is why I have asked an independent adviser to look at what lessons we can learn from Windrush.”
He noted that that the cases of removal and detention had happened “over many years under successive governments”, with four of the 18 who will receive apologies removed and two detained before 2010.
Yvette Cooper, the chair of the home affairs select committee, said: “This update from the home secretary confirms the deep wrongs that have been done by the Home Office to members of the Windrush generation – detaining and deporting people against their rights, separating families and having a devastating impact on people’s lives.
“While I welcome the home secretary’s apology and commitment to compensation for the 18 people who he is confident were wrongly removed from their home or detained, it is vital the Home Office steps up support for them. Similarly, it is clear from the home secretary’s letter that there are many more people – including those stopped and temporarily detained at the border, despite having the right to be in the UK – who have been affected and need contact, support and a similar apology now.
“We also still need to know how many Windrush people have lost their jobs or their homes or been wrongly penalised in other ways as a result of hostile environment measures – and how many people were wrongly told by the Home Office that they had no right to be here.”
Cooper also accused Javid of moving “too slowly” on meeting what the select committee says is a need for hardship payments to Windrush citizens who have lost jobs, gone into debt or face large legal bills.
Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said Javid’s apology was overdue and inadequate. “The government has still not got a final figure on how many of our fellow citizens were deported, forced into so-called ‘voluntary removals’ or detained as prisoners in their own country,” she said. “It is an insult that the home secretary has still failed to confirm when the promised compensation scheme will be up and running, after so many of our fellow citizens have been left destitute, in debt and jobless by the government’s hostile environment.”
Anthony Bryan, 60, who spent five weeks in immigration removal centres over the past two years despite having lived in the UK for more than half a century, said he had yet to receive a letter of apology from the home secretary.
All 164 people have no criminal records; the government has chosen not to release the numbers of people it may have wrongly detained or deported who have any sort of criminal record, as part of a significant adjustment of the way it is classifying those affected by Home Office errors.
Officials have also created a separate category for people who were detained or removed after apparently losing an entitlement to indefinite leave to remain in the UK because they had spent more than two years out of the country.
This adjustment of the calculation will prove controversial among Windrush campaigners, who argue that if someone has the right to citizenship, then it is wrong to deport them, even if they have spent long periods out of the country or committed an offence.
The analysis of the 11,800 cases excluded anyone classified as “criminal case type”. Javid said he made “a purposeful distinction” between criminal cases and other cases. But there is concern from campaigners over whether it is right to summarily exclude all these individuals. Javid said work was ongoing to check whether “this is not too broad a category”, and acknowledged that the numbers might still change.
The update, issued in a letter to the home affairs select committee, stated that 2,272 Windrush generation people had been helped to get the documentation needed to prove their right to be in the UK. It said 1,465 people had been granted citizenship or other documentation to prove their status under the scheme.
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights programme director, said: “The home secretary’s apology to just 18 individuals is worrying and brings into question whether the Home Office has a realistic grasp on all the people it has wrongly detained and removed following the exposure of its appalling treatment of the Windrush generation.
“The government’s focus remains narrow, casting doubt on its willingness to learn the full lessons of what has gone so badly wrong.”
The government this week launched a call for evidence to inform its lessons learned review. The independent adviser overseeing the review, the solicitor Wendy Williams, hopes to speak to Home Office staff and to those affected, as well as immigration lawyers and people responsible for “maintaining the ‘compliant environment: for examples, employers, local authorities and landlords”.