25 Apr 2018

Amber Rudd: I should have seen Windrush issue coming months ago

Some extraordinary moments in the Amber Rudd testimony to the Home Affairs Select Committee. The Home Secretary admitted that she should have spotted a trend when over several months a number of cases of Windrush generation individuals fell victim to draconian immigration tests. She wished she had moved on the subject “three or four months” ago, she said.

The committee had just heard evidence that some of this anxiety and distress could have been driven by targets set regionally for hunting down illegal immigrants. Amber Rudd said she didn’t know anything about such targets and so did Glynn Williams, the senior Home Office official on citizenship issues who was sitting beside her throughout the session.

MPs suggested that Amber Rudd might’ve been able to jump on the injustice being meted out to Windrush generation individuals earlier if there had been a tagging system for complaints and concerns that were coming in to her department. Two MPs pointed out that their own constituency offices tag casework files in ways that would’ve flagged up concerns coming from a particular group in society pretty quickly.

Yvette Cooper asked if the Home Office knew how many people from the Windrush generation had been detained. Amber Rudd said she didn’t know those numbers and wondered what the committee might like to see in terms of how far back in time the data should go. Yvette Cooper spluttered with incomprehension that the Home Office hadn’t made a point of looking urgently into cases of people who had been “wrongfully incarcerated” by the state. You had a sense of the Home Secretary struggling to keep up with public and political demands for urgent action.

Glyn Williams made the point that public concerns about crime, illegal immigration and terror threats had contributed to pressure on the Home Office. Cue more spluttering incomprehension from Yvette Cooper, who asked what possible threat did a retirement age individual from the Windrush generation pose? I think what Mr Williams may have been trying to articulate was the way politicians channelling elements of public opinion bear down on the Home Office, forcefully demanding a clampdown on illegal immigration only to demand more sensitivity the moment stories of mistreatment surface.

There was a hanging question mark over why a number of Windrush generation individuals were asked for four separate proofs of residence for individual years dating back decades. Glynn Williams said there was no such requirement in the rubric.

Stephen Doughty said the hostile environment policy involved reducing appeals and reducing staffing levels and there were wider problems with the hostile environment policy. Amber Rudd said there was a need for a more personal approach and to that extent seemed to accept his point. She said her preferred phrase was “compliant environment”.

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