The Home Office was repeatedly warned that Windrush generation residents had been wrongly classified as being in the country illegally as long ago as 2013, according to immigration advice experts.
After Capita was awarded a Home Office contract in 2012 to help target around 174,000 migrants who had overstayed their visas, pro bono legal advisers said they began to be contacted by older, Caribbean-born individuals concerned that they were receiving text messages and letters advising them to leave the country. The advisers contacted the Home Office to tell them this group had been wrongly targeted.
The detail about the warnings given to the Home Office undermines the credibility of briefings the department gave to the media last month, claiming that until mid-April this year officials had been convinced that only a handful of people were affected by the Windrush scandal.
The fact that a number of people were wrongly included in the database of people who were probably in the country illegally that the Home Office passed to Capita was widely reported at the time, and Capita blamed out-of-date Home Office records for the errors. This week, however, the chief executive of a large law centre said his staff quickly became aware that the Home Office was wrongly targeting people who would now be recognised as Windrush residents, and that they made departmental staff aware of their concerns.
Case workers at the Refugee and Migrant Centre (RMC) in Wolverhampton said they saw hundreds of cases of individuals who had wrongly received Capita letters telling them that they had no right to be in the UK. About half of the letters were sent to people who already had leave to remain, or who were in the process of regularising their immigration status with the Home Office.
Some people were sent text messages stating: “Our records show you may not have leave to remain in the UK”. Others received letters telling them: “If you do not have the right to remain in the UK, you must make immediate arrangements to leave the United Kingdom.”