Downing Street has rejected a formal diplomatic request to discuss the immigration problems being experienced by some Windrush-generation British residents at this week’s meeting of the Commonwealth heads of government, rebuffing a request from representatives of 12 Caribbean countries for a meeting with the prime minister.
“We did make a request to the CHOGM summit team for a meeting to be held between the prime minister and the Commonwealth Caribbean heads of government who will be here for the CHOGM and regrettably they have advised us that that is not possible,” said Guy Hewitt, the Barbados high commissioner.
The refusal has given Caribbean diplomats the impression that the UK government is not taking a sufficiently serious approach to the problem that is affecting large numbers of long-term UK residents who came to Britain as children.
Some have been threatened with deportation to countries they left as children 50 years ago and have not returned to since. Others have been denied access to healthcare, lost jobs or been made homeless because they do not have sufficient paperwork to prove they have the right to be in the UK.
Hewitt said the numbers of people coming forward to say they were affected by the immigration anomaly were “increasing exponentially”. Satbir Singh, the chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said dozens of people had contacted the charity seeking help after publicity around the issue last week.
Downing Street acknowledged that a request had been received from the Caribbean high commissioners and confirmed that a meeting had not been scheduled. Although the subject is not on the CHOGM agenda, officials said there would be “a number of opportunities” for the heads of delegations to meet the prime minister and discuss this “important issue”.
Seth George Ramocan, the Jamaican high commissioner, said he would be seeking to raise the issue despite the lack of a formal meeting. “We have senior citizens in limbo. It is not explicitly on the agenda, but we want our heads of government to bring it to the attention of the wider body,” he said.
Late on Friday, the Home Office issued a guidance summary of what Commonwealth-born, long-term UK residents should do if they were concerned that they did not have the necessary papers to prove their right to be in the UK.
The guidance acknowledges that problems are only now beginning to arise because of newly tightened immigration rules, and states: “Recent changes to the law mean that if you wish to work, rent property or have access to benefits and services in the UK then you will need documents to demonstrate your right to be in the UK. The government believes this is a proportionate measure to maintain effective immigration control.”