LONDON – An independent report sharply criticized Britain's Conservative government on Thursday for the way it treated long-term U.K. residents who were wrongly caught up in a government drive to reduce illegal immigration.
The report said the U.K. Home Office exhibited “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness” towards the issue of race and the history of the mostly Caribbean immigrants involved that are “consistent with some definitions of institutional racism.”
Those affected belong to the “Windrush generation,” named for the ship Empire Windrush, which in 1948 brought hundreds of Caribbean immigrants to Britain. The country was then seeking nurses, railway workers and others to help it rebuild after the devastation of World War II.
They and subsequent Caribbean migrants came from British colonies or ex-colonies and had an automatic right to settle in the U.K. But some became ensnared by tough new rules introduced beginning in 2012 that were intended to make Britain a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants.
In recent years, some of them, now elderly, were refused medical care or threatened with deportation because they could not produce paperwork proving their right to reside in the U.K. Some were even deported.
Lead author Wendy Williams, a lawyer and former inspector of police, said "members of the Windrush generation and their children have been poorly served by this country.
“They had every right to be here and should never have been caught in the immigration net," she said.
Home Secretary Priti Patel apologized to those caught up in the scandal, who endured “insensitive treatment by the very country they called home."