Barbados’ High Commissioner to London Guy Hewitt and his St Kitts and Nevis counterpart Kevin Isaac on Thursday met with the British home secretary Amber Rudd and senior officials of the United Kingdom’s Home Office for what was described as a successful “partnership” meeting.
This comes amid the still simmering “Windrush Generation” controversy which erupted over attempts by the Theresa May-led Conservative government to crackdown on undocumented UK immigrants – including thousands from the Caribbean who went to Britain between 1948, when the ship Windrush landed with the first group of West Indian immigrants, up to the 1960s.
The new rules were designed to make sure that only those with the right to remain in the UK could access the British welfare system and the National Health Service, or to rent a home.
However, in the face of widespread condemnation, the May government has been forced to apologize and make an about turn in terms of its policy direction.
During today’s meeting with the two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) envoys, which came amid the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in London, the home secretary reiterated her previously stated intention to resolve the issue with urgency and compassion.
A statement released by the CARICOM envoys following the talks also pointed out that the Home Office had already established a website and dedicated a helpline to allow those concerned about their status to call in to have their cases addressed.
Rudd and her team also confirmed that those individuals who have been in the United Kingdom prior to 1973, based on the presumption of legal residence, would be given Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). However, given the two-year limitation for those with ILR to be away from the UK, it was recommended that they should apply for No Time Limit [NTL] status prior to travel,” the release added.
As these persons also qualify for British citizenship, the Home Office was asked to consider waiving the cost of application for such as they had agreed to do in the case of granting the ILR and NTL status.
“The Home Office agreed that there would be shared responsibility in the gathering of the evidentiary documents to confirm person’s residency in the UK before 1973, which will include data from the HMRC, NHS, NIC and the Department of Education,” the diplomats reported.
They also said that the Home Office was currently seeking to confirm whether there were any persons in detention or who had been deported based on “a previous incorrect assessment that these persons did not have settled status in the United Kingdom”.
“Aware that there are persons currently in the Caribbean who have been refused the right to return to the UK, the Home Office has been asked to work with the British High Commissions in the Caribbean to confirm their ILR status as well as to assist anyone who had been deported with repatriation.
The High Commissioners committed to work with their Diaspora groups to communicate that they are working in partnership with the Home Office in bringing this matter to a successful conclusion and to ask the Diaspora groups to raise awareness of the new position of the Home Office and the support it has committed to provide.
The Home Office undertook to provide a summary document on this matter, including the process, to be made available to the public in a timely manner, including sharing with the Citizens Advice Bureau for community outreach,” the statement added.