Thousands of people belonging to the Windrush generation from all Commonwealth countries and their family members will be granted full British citizenship, the home secretary said.
“Many people think the events around the Windrush generation are one of the biggest scandals in the administration of home affairs in a very long time,” Home Secretary Amber Rudd said.
“This was a generation with unparalleled commitment to this country, unparalleled pride in being British, unparalleled commitment to hard work and contributing to society. It is shameful that this government has treated this generation in this way.”
Rudd explained that the citizenship offer would apply to families of Caribbean migrants who came to the United Kingdom (UK) between 1948 and 1973 as well as anyone from other Commonwealth nations who settled in the UK during the same period.
“I am personally committed to resolving this situation with urgency and purpose. Of course, an apology is just the first step in putting right the wrongs that these people have suffered,” Rudd said.
Rudd disclosed that the US$1,852 citizenship fees and language tests requirements would be waived for both the Windrush generation and their families who seek to formalize their status.
Rudd issued another apology for changes to immigration rules, which she added had had an “unintended and devastating” impact on the Windrush generation. The government came under fire last week after it was revealed that numerous long-term residents, who settled in the UK from the late 1940s to early 1970s, had wrongly been identified as illegal immigrants.
"This should never have happened," the home secretary told members of parliament in an address. "We need to show a human face to how we work and exercise greater judgment where it is justified."
People who had arrived in the United Kingdom before 1973 were automatically granted indefinite leave to remain but the Home Office did not keep a record of those allowed to stay or any documentation confirming their status.
As a result, some Caribbean immigrants have been threatened with deportation, lost their jobs or been denied medical treatment since changes to the immigration rules came into effect in 2014.
The secretary said that anyone who had “suffered loss” would be compensated. “They are British in all but legal status and this should never have been allowed to happen,” Rudd added.
Tottenham Member of Parliament David Lammy, who has campaigned for the Windrush victims, urged Rudd to extend similar courtesies to other immigrants from the Commonwealth countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
A major exercise has been launched to check whether anyone has been wrongly deported.