Home Secretary Sajid Javid is being accused of “dragging his feet” on compensation for Windrush citizens.
The call is being led by the shadow home secretary Diane Abbott on the 70th anniversary of the arrival in the UK of the Empire Windrush ship.
It follows an admission by immigration minister Caroline Nokes that the government has not reached a decision on a compensation scheme more than two months after it was raised by MPs.
The Home Office call for evidence on the Windrush compensation scheme closed two weeks ago, but a full consultation on details of the scheme has not yet been announced and Mr Javid has not confirmed when it will be introduced.
“Today, as we mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush, many of our fellow citizens have been left destitute by the Home Office and the government’s hostile environment policy,” said Ms Abbott.
“They cannot wait months for a consultation to be concluded on the government’s promised compensation scheme.
“The Home Office’s hostile environment policy has left British citizens in debt, jobless, denied access to the benefits to which they are entitled and even homeless.
“The home secretary must act to urgently establish a hardship fund to support these people ahead of the promised compensation scheme, which will clearly not be up and running for months.
“The home secretary is dragging his feet and has failed to even confirm when the compensation scheme will finally be set up.
“This is totally unacceptable.
“If the home secretary is to keep his promise to put this crisis right then he needs to act now.”
In May, Mr Javid launched a month-long call for evidence as “the first step to establishing” a compensation scheme for “those who have suffered financial loss because of difficulties proving their immigration status”.
But last week Ms Nokes told MPs: “We have not decided any details of the scheme.”
Ms Abbott has now highlighted several stories of hardship involving people from the Windrush generation:
:: Balvin Marshall, 64, came to the UK in 1972. After years of working and paying his taxes he was told he was here illegally and could not work. He had to leave his job as a council road sweeper and lost his home. He is homeless and has been sleeping on park benches. He told The Guardian: “At this moment I have no address. Where I sleep tonight, I am yet to work out.”
:: Anthony Bryan, a painter and decorator, lost his job when he was told he was in the country illegally. Mr Bryan has lived in the UK since 1965. He estimates that he has spent £3,000 on legal and application fees and owes £5,000 in overdue council tax and loans. He has been placed in immigration detention twice, and has had his car removed by bailiffs.
:: Sarah O’Connor moved to Britain 51 years ago when she was six and has lived here ever since. She was challenged to prove she was here legally when she was applying for benefits after losing her job. Although she has successfully interviewed for several new jobs, the offers were withdrawn when employers discovered she has no passport. Unable to get work and told she is not eligible for benefits, she built up debts and earlier this year was facing bankruptcy.
:: Hubert Howard, 61, arrived in the UK 58 years ago with his mother and has not lived anywhere else since. He was told he was an illegal immigrant and consequently he lost his job and was unable to get a British passport to travel to Jamaica to visit his mother before she died. Unable to work, he was told he was not entitled to benefits and as a result has accumulated substantial debts.
:: Judy Griffith arrived in the UK in 1963. After 52 years, a Jobcentre Plus employee told her that she was an illegal immigrant and, because her passport with evidence of leave to remain had been stolen, she was unable to work. She could not visit her sick mother in Barbados in 2016, and was unable to attend the funeral. She fell into significant arrears on her flat and narrowly escaped eviction, but still owes thousands of pounds to Islington Council.
Also calling on Mr Javid to launch a hardship fund is the home affairs select committee of MPs, which says citizens have suffered financially because of difficulties proving their immigration status.
“Some of the Windrush generation are facing destitution,” said the committee’s chair, former Labour cabinet minister Yvette Cooper.
“People are having to settle legal bills, or are facing bailiffs due to debts run up when they were forced to give up work or had their social security payments stopped through no fault of their own.
“The government must step in to help people immediately.”
From – SkyNews