April 20, 2018
PM tells Commonwealth leaders she will do ‘whatever it takes’ to resolve anxieties and problems many have suffered
Theresa May says Windrush victims will be paid compensation
Theresa May reassured Commonwealth leaders on Friday that members of the Windrush generation who had suffered “anxieties and problems” as a result of the government’s immigration rules would be paid compensation.
The prime minister said she had given Caribbean leaders an “absolute commitment” at a meeting earlier this week that “the UK will do whatever it takes including, where appropriate, payment of compensation, to resolve the anxieties and problems that some of the Windrush generation have suffered”.
She added: “These people are British. They are part of us; they helped to build Britain and we are all the stronger for their contributions.”
May was speaking at the closing press conference for the Commonwealth heads of government (Chogm) meeting in London, which has been overshadowed by the treatment of the Windrush generation.
She has been under intense pressure to provide more reassurance – and pay compensation – to the affected individuals, some of whom have lost homes and jobs and been threatened with deportation.
The Labour MP David Lammy and the Jamaican prime minister, Andrew Holness, are among those to have called for compensation.
Speaking to reporters after the press conference, the prime minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell, said he believed May and the UK government should be doing more to address the situation.
“I think there’s no question,” he said. “Clearly it’s something which is vibrating strongly in the Caribbean region as a whole. Many of our people came here and helped to build Britain, under conditions that were set for them. For me, it’s very unfair for them to be treated in the way they have been treated.
“The word compensation came out today - that was highly significant, extremely important. It’s not just, ‘I’m sorry.’ People lost a lot, people suffered a lot of pain, and they must be given an opportunity to correct this – some serious compensation. If not the person, if they’ve gone, then the families who have suffered, too.”
Asked if May should accept her “hostile environment” immigration policy was a mistake, Mitchell praised the prime minister for pledging to address the crisis.
He said: “I think the fact she has addressed it is indicating that Britain and the policy they enunciated initially was not the right one. And therefore by making the statement she made today, I think she’s heading in the right direction. And I’ll give her credit for making the right turn.”
The development came as it was revealed that the number of people who had contacted the Home Office’s helpline set up to offer support for members of the Windrush generation had risen to 232. The first four people whose cases have gone to a dedicated team of officials have been given permanent residence status.
Theresa May says Windrush victims will be paid compensation
Later, the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, addressed a Windrush rally in Brixton, south-west London, telling them that the home secretary, Amber Rudd, and May, should not be apologising over the scandal. “You know why? Because you only apologise when you make a mistake. They knew what they were doing,” she said.
The government “knew the consequences of that hostile climate would affect black people, whether or not they had immigration issues”, Abbott said, adding that ministers “thought they could get away with it; they thought nobody would care”. She demanded to know how many people were being held in detention centres and how many had been removed from the country.
She said those in detention must be released and those who had been removed must be invited to come back – and be compensated by the government. “Think what it means: you are separated from your families and your friends, you are separated often from your healthcare treatment. You are humiliated. And they did not care that they were humiliating people who helped to rebuild this country after the second world war.”
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