LONDON (Reuters) - British authorities could have wrongly deported up to 63 immigrants from the Caribbean, the new interior minister said on Tuesday in the latest revelation on the Windrush scandal that cost his predecessor her job.
The British government is under intense pressure to come clean on the mistreatment of descendants of people from the so-called Windrush generation, who were invited to settle in Britain after World War Two to plug labour shortages.
Although fully entitled to live and work in Britain, an unknown number of Windrush descendants have been wrongly identified as illegal immigrants and denied basic rights such as healthcare. Some have been detained and may have been wrongly deported.
Sajid Javid, who took over as home secretary, or interior minister, on April 30 after Amber Rudd was forced to resign over her handling of the Windrush scandal, appeared on Tuesday in front of a committee of lawmakers investigating the scandal.
Javid said that so far, Home Office officials had identified 63 records of people who were deported to the Caribbean and who may in fact have been entitled to remain in Britain under rules applying to Windrush immigrants.
Javid said the number was provisional as work on Home Office records was still going on.
However, he said he did not yet have data on how many Windrush immigrants had been detained. A number of cases have been detailed in media reports and have been highlighted in parliament by individual lawmakers, but so far there has been no clarity on the scale of wrongful detentions.
The immigrants are named after the Empire Windrush, one of the first ships to bring Caribbean migrants to Britain in 1948.
The government has tried to portray the Windrush fiasco as an administrative problem in which people got wrongly caught up in immigration controls that were not aimed at them, and were asked to produce extensive documentary proof of their status that authorities had not previously asked them to obtain.
But the opposition Labour party and other critics have argued that the Windrush crisis was a consequence of an anti-immigrant climate at the Home Office which they said dated back to Prime Minister Theresa May’s six years as home secretary between 2010 and 2016.
Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison