Author: Amelia Gentleman
“This should never have been allowed to happen” declared Amber Rudd at the start of her extraordinary response to a situation she described as “heartbreaking”.
Her statement addresses many issues, but never quite gets around to revealing how she and Theresa May allowed it to happen – and why they were unforgivably slow to respond to numerous detailed, disturbing accounts from those affected by the mistakes of the Home Office.
“All members of this House will have seen the recent heartbreaking stories of individuals who have been in this country for decades struggling to navigate an immigration system in a way they never, ever should have been,” she said on Monday.
It is remarkable that she finally decided that the victims’ stories were heartbreaking. For six months, the Guardian has been contacting the Home Office almost on a weekly basis to outline the horrendous problems being experienced by Windrush victims – people battling with homelessness, unemployment, the suspension of their benefits, the denial of NHS cancer care.
There was no acknowledgement from the department that serious mistakes had been made and there was never the slightest suggestion that anyone there found the accounts heartbreaking.
Each call elicited only dry statements for quotation, mostly advising victims to seek legal advice – which they were unable to afford, having been pushed to near-destitution by the department’s actions.
In the space of eight days, the government has executed an astonishing reassessment of its relaxed attitude towards the profound suffering of a generation of Windrush citizens.
Last Saturday, Downing Street’s position was that this issue was sufficiently trivial that there was no need to agree to a formal request from the 12 Caribbean high commissioners for a meeting with the prime minister to discuss the Home Office’s treatment of its elderly citizens at the Commonwealth heads of government summit which began last Monday in London.