Author: Peter Walker
Sadiq Khan has written to the government to demand changes to its planned post-Brexit immigration policy, saying that forcing long-established EU nationals to pay fees to stay showed ministers had not learned the lessons of Windrush.
In a letter to the home secretary, Sajid Javid, the Labour mayor said the wider immigration policy, including plans to restrict immigration to people earning above £30,000 a year, would badly damage London’s economy.
Khan has been a critic of Theresa May’s Brexit plans. He also differs from official Labour policy on the subject, supporting a second referendum.
In the letter, Khan said the immigration white paper, published just before Christmas, was disappointing in content and tone. “The promised ‘new conversation on immigration’ is off to a poor start,” he wrote.
The mayor criticised the £65 fee millions of EU nationals will need to pay to apply for so-called settled status, likening it to errors that saw some members of the Windrush generation targeted for immigration enforcement when they could not prove their status.
“There are hundreds of thousands of young people who were born in the UK or, like the Windrush generation, brought here as young children, who are prevented from participating in the economic, social and political life of the UK by the prohibitive cost of applying for leave to remain or citizenship,” Khan wrote.
“While the previous home secretary rightly waived fees for the Windrush generation, the government clearly has not learnt the wider lessons. There are many others still at risk from the same policies that led to the Windrush generation experiencing discrimination, destitution, and deportation.
“The Home Office now faces the unprecedented task of registering 3.4 million EU citizens resident in the UK. Many people will find this process inaccessible and unaffordable. As a matter of fairness, the government should waive the settled status fee for EU nationals and their families who were resident in the UK before the referendum took place.”
Khan also argued that the plan to restrict immigration to skilled people with salaries of £30,000 or more “simply won’t allow London to continue to grow its economy and provide crucial public services”.
The mayor added that the official “shortage occupation list”, which would help people move to the UK to take roles that need to be filled, should be expanded to assist the needs of London, and possibly devolved to the city.
Jasmine Whitbread, the head of London First, a grouping of leading employers in the capital, said a decision to reduce the minimum salary to the London living wage, currently £20,155, would “avoid a recruitment cliff-edge, keep the UK open to a range of skills, and ensure workers are decently paid”.