David Lammy’s impassioned speech on May’s “hostile environment” for migrants

Thousands of long-term UK residents face the threat of deportation and being denied access to healthcare due to UK paperwork issues and anomalies affecting some immigrants who arrived from former British colonies, largely from the Caribbean. This is because of the increasing requirement to show paperwork proving a right to be in the UK before people can start work, rent properties, access healthcare or claim benefits. Unknown numbers have lost jobs and been denied urgent healthcare as a result. Some have been sent to removal centres and some may even have been deported.

Yesterday, in the Commons, David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, condemned the Home Office’s push towards a “hostile environment” for illegal migrants which was first announced and implemented by May as home secretary in 2012, and the “far-right rhetoric” that has taken hold in the UK thanks to the Tories and Brexit.

In his impassioned speech, Lammy said:

“The relationship between this country and the West Indies and the Caribbean is inextricable. The first British ships arrived in the Caribbean in 1623, and despite slavery and colonisation, 25,000 Caribbeans served in the first and second world wars alongside British troops.

“When my parents and others of their generation arrived in this country under the British Nationality Act 1948, they arrived here as British citizens. It is inhumane and cruel for so many of that Windrush generation to have suffered for so long in this condition and for the Secretary of State to be making a statement on the issue only today.

“Can the Secretary of State tell us how many people have been deported? She suggested earlier that she would ask the high commissioners, but it is her Department that has deported those people. She should know the number.

“Can she tell the House how many have been detained as prisoners in their own country? Can she tell us how many have been denied healthcare under the national health service, how many have been denied pensions and how many have lost their jobs?

“This is a day of national shame, and it has come about because of a ‘hostile environment’ and a policy that was begun under her Prime Minister. Let us call it as it is: if you lay down with dogs, you get fleas, and that is what has happened with the far-right rhetoric in this country.

“Will the Secretary of State apologise properly? Will she explain how quickly the team will act to ensure that the thousands of British men and women who have been denied their rights in this country on her watch in the Home Office are satisfied?”

Five months after the Guardian began reporting on this scandal, home secretary Rudd has belatedly announced the creation of a new taskforce in the Home Office to speed up the regularisation of the immigration status of people who arrived in the UK as long ago as the 1940s.

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