May apologises to Caribbean countries for treatment of post-war migrants
British Prime Minister Theresa May apologized to 12 Caribbean nations on Tuesday for immigration officials’ recent harsh treatment of people from those countries who migrated to Britain as children after World War II, reports Reuters.
The “Windrush generation” were invited to Britain to plug labor shortfalls between 1948 and 1971, but some of their descendants have been caught up in a tightening of immigration rules overseen by May in 2012 when she was interior minister.
Some people have been wrongly labeled illegal immigrants, asked to provide documentary evidence of their life in Britain they had never previously been required to keep, and in some cases denied rights, detained and threatened with deportation.
“I want to apologize to you today because we are genuinely sorry for any anxiety that has been caused,” May told leaders and diplomats from the Caribbean countries, who were in London for a summit of Commonwealth heads of government.
The scandal over the mistreatment of people from what were once British colonies has cast a shadow over the summit, which is supposed to strengthen Britain’s ties to fellow Commonwealth countries as it prepares to leave the European Union.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness highlighted the issue at a plenary session of the summit, drawing cheers from his fellow leaders as he said the Windrush generation had enriched Britain and contributed to society. “Now these persons are not able to claim their place as citizens,” he said. May was on stage as he spoke, having delivered her own speech just before.
Named after a ship that brought migrants from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean islands in 1948, the Windrush generation enjoyed a special status, but that has been eroded over the years by successive immigration reforms.
Interior minister Amber Rudd said on Monday that a team would be set up in her ministry to resolve issues; May told the Caribbean representatives on Tuesday that she would instruct that team to work swiftly and efficiently.