It has been reported in the past week that thousands of people in the UK – known as the ‘Windrush generation’ who arrived as children in the first wave of Commonwealth immigration are being faced with threats of deportation.
Despite having lived and worked in the UK for decades many are now being told that they are in the country illegally.
The issue has arisen due to the fact that under the 1971 Immigration Act, all Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were granted status despite the right to free movement between Commonwealth nations ending from that date onwards. It is now understood that the Home Office did not keep a record of those granted leave to remain or issue any paperwork confirming it which makes it difficult for individuals to now prove that they legally reside in the UK.
According to the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, it is estimated that there are 500,000 people resident in the UK who were born in a Commonwealth country and arrived before 1971.
The Home Office has since said that it would handle applications to stay ‘sensitively’.
A spokesperson said: "We value the contribution made by former Commonwealth citizens who have made a life in the UK.
"We want to assure individuals who have resided in the UK for an extended period but feel they may not have the correct documentation confirming their status that there are existing solutions available.
"They should take legal advice and submit the appropriate application with correct evidence so we can progress the case.
"We have no intention of making people leave who have the right to remain here."
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has since disclosed that it is believed that there have also been cases of Australian, Canadian, South African, Indian and Pakistan born citizens facing the same problem.
One of our Immigration Solicitors, Mark Benton, provides his opinion surrounding the case of the ‘Windrush generation’:
“Home Office policies and nationality requirements have both changed drastically over the last 70 years. Unfortunately, this has left hundreds if not thousands of individuals from the Windrush generation (or their descendants) with no fixed legal status in the UK despite spending the vast majority of their lives here; or in some cases, being born in the UK and never having left. To add insult to injury the Home Office are now so stringent in their regulation of employment and housing that individuals who cannot prove their legal status may now find it hard to retain work or even a place to live. The Home Office should have addressed this issue years ago and are still yet to provide any procedural clarity. In many cases individuals will be eligible for either British Citizenship or settlement; but this isn’t always guaranteed and it can often be very difficult to obtain any documentation which evidences eligibility to the Home Office’s high standards.
“Here at Cartwright King we can assist with applications for regularising status or obtaining British Citizenship; this includes advising on best practices to obtain and submit the correct documentation. There is no quick fix for those who have been impacted by the lack of clarity over Windrush cases and applications dealing with these issues will continue to be difficult. It is always worth seeking legal advice.”