Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Theresa May: Destruction of Windrush generation landing cards ordered by Labour in 2009

The destruction of thousands of Windrush generation landing cards by the Home Office was ordered by Labour in 2009, the Prime Minister has claimed.

Theresa May told MPs during Prime Minister's Questions that the decision to destroy the landing cards, which recorded the arrival of Windrush generation immigrants into the UK, was by the previous Labour government.

It came after the Home Office on Tuesday said the decision had been taken in 2010, when Theresa May became the Home Secretary.

In a heated exchange in the Commons, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "Yesterday we learned in 2010 the Home Office destroyed the landing cards for a generation of Commonwealth citizens, so have told people 'we can't find you in our system'.

"Did the Prime Minister, the then-Home Secretary, sign off that decision?"

Mrs May replied: "No, the decision to destroy the landing cards was taken in 2009 under a Labour government."

Jeremy Corbyn blamed the Home Office for the destruction of Windrush landing cards.

The Prime Minister did however apologise to members of the Windrush generation for causing "confusion and anxiety".

She said: "These people are British.They are part of us. I want to be absolutely clear that we have no intention of asking anyone to leave who has the right to remain here."

She added: "For those who have mistakenly received letters challenging them I want to apologise to them and I want to say sorry to anyone who has been caused confusion and anxiety by this."

Jeremy Corbyn said the destruction of landing cards was "truly shocking" and blamed the the Prime Minister for creating a "hostile environment for immigrants" when she was home secretary.

The Prime Minister fired back, saying she would not take lessons from a leader who "allows anti-Semitism to run rife in his party".

The Windrush generation arrived in the UK after World War II. Credit: PA

The Windrush generation were invited to the UK from the Caribbean in the decades following World War II. Many children were included on their parents' passports when they arrived but recent changes to immigration law mean people must have documentation to work, rent a property or access benefits and many now lack the correct paperwork.

On Tuesday, Theresa May apologised to Caribbean leaders over the controversy.

The decision was taken by the UK Border Agency in 2010 to dispose of the registration slips, in line with the principles of the Data Protection Act.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Registration slips provided details of an individual's date of entry, they did not provide any reliable evidence relating to ongoing residence in the UK or their immigration status.

"So it would be misleading and inaccurate to suggest that registration slips would therefore have a bearing on immigration cases whereby Commonwealth citizens are proving residency in the UK."

A former Home Office employee told the Guardian it was decided in 2010 to destroy the disembarkation cards, which dated back to the 1950s and 1960s, when the Home Office's Whitgift Centre in Croydon was closed and the staff were moved to another site.

Original members of the Windrush generation arrived in the UK on the Empire Windrush ship in 1948. Credit: PA

The Home Office stressed that in deciding immigration cases, officials consider alternative evidence, such as tax records, utility bills and tenancy agreements, as evidence of ongoing residency in the UK in these exceptional circumstances.

Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has claimed the Prime Minister has only apologised because of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting this week.

He said: "Let's be frank, if there wasn't Chogm taking place this week I query whether Amber Rudd or Theresa May would have done what they have done.

"But, this is symptomatic of the hostile environment created by this government since 2010."

MPs will take part in a debate in Parliament on April 30 in response to a petition signed by more than 165,000 people calling for an immigration amnesty for the Windrush generation.

The petition, started by activist Patrick Vernon, calls for an "amnesty for anyone who was a minor that arrived In Britain between 1948 to 1971", adding the "Windrush Generation were invited as settlers and as British subjects".

It calls for the Government to "stop all deportations", "change the burden of proof" and "provide compensation for loss and hurt".

The debate on the petition will take place in Westminster Hall, opened by Tory MP Steve Double.