Caribbean diplomats raise immigration issue with U.K.

Say Caribbean-born residents face penalties and even threat of deportation

Updated - April 12, 2018 09:38 pm IST

Published - April 12, 2018 09:36 pm IST - London

High Commissioners from across Caribbean Commonwealth nations have joined together to call on Britain to speedily tackle an increasingly tough immigration regime which has resulted in many elderly Caribbean-born men and women, who have lived in the U.K. for decades, facing penalties and even threatened with deportation.

The call comes ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London next week, and in the wake of a number of cases emerging, including of one elderly man, who arrived in Britain more than 40-years-ago, being denied NHS treatment for cancer. “Being a product of the Commonwealth, London-born, of Indian and Barbadian migrants to the U.K., I am dismayed that this situation could even exist in the 21st century; that people who gave their all to Britain could be seemingly discarded so matter-of-factly,” said Guy Hewitt, High Commissioner of Barbados to the U.K.

Approximately 555,000 West Indians migrated to Britain between 1948 and 1973, alongside migrants from other parts of the Commonwealth, responding to Britain’s call for migrant labour to meet labour shortages.

While the immediate issue centres around the treatment of Caribbean-born residents, particularly those who arrived as minors — and are referred to as the “Windrush” generation — there are concerns for the estimated 50,000 Commonwealth-born persons who arrived in Britain before 1971, without clear residency status.

‘Illegal immigrants’

Rather than treating those cases as “anomalies” to be regularised, they were being treated as “illegal immigrants”, the statement from the High Commissioners warned. In 1971 legislation introduced into Britain meant Commonwealth citizens would no longer automatically have the right to remain in Britain, though the rule would not apply to those who had arrived previous to this. However, details of those who had arrived previously to this period have not been retained by the Home Office, leading to uncertainty over status.

“This inhumane treatment is not who we are as a country and it’s time for the Home Office to stop causing anxiety and fear among those who have contributed so much to Britain over five decades,” said Labour MP David Lammy, calling on the government to confirm the status of everyone who arrived from the Commonwealth before 1971.

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