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22 June 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks. It was carrying passengers from the Caribbean who were responding to an invitation to come to the UK to address a post-WW2 labour shortage. 

The arrival of the Windrush marked the start of a phase of Commonwealth migration which continued throughout the 1950s and 1960s until commencement of the Immigration Act 1971. 

The immigration and nationality rights of people associated with former British colonies have changed over time, as a result of those countries gaining independence from the UK and successive changes to British immigration and nationality law from the 1960s onwards.

Whilst the Immigration Act 1971 provided that foreign nationals who were ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK on 1 January 1973 (when the Act came into force) were deemed to have ‘settled’ status (i.e. Indefinite Leave to Remain), in practice many of these people have been living in the UK for many years without documentary proof of their immigration/nationality status. Long-term residents who arrived from 1973 onwards may also have grounds to remain in the UK.

As laws to detect and discourage illegal immigration have proliferated over the past 20 years or so, some long-term residents have found themselves unable to provide sufficient evidence of their status and eligibility for employment and services in the UK. 

Whilst the ‘hostile environment’ policies were aimed at tackling illegal immigration, those without documentary proof of their right to be in the UK have found themselves denied healthcare, pensions and jobs. People eligible to access services have not been able to prove their entitlement. Some have struggled to provide the amount of evidence (and associated fees) that the Home Office has required to issue status confirmation documents.

The Government is taking a range of measures in response to recent criticisms of the Home Office’s handling of these cases. These include establishing a helpline and dedicated casework team to assist affected individuals obtain confirmation of their status; waiving the application fee and some of the requirements for eligibility for British citizenship for this cohort of cases; and establishing a compensation scheme for people who have previously been adversely affected by this issue.

This Opposition Day debate follows on from a debate on a related e-petition on 30 April. See: E-petition 216539 relating to people who entered the UK as minors between 1948 and 1971, Commons Library debate pack CDP-2018-0109, 30 April 2018

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