Home Office still not certain if anyone has been wrongly deported.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said sorry to Caribbean leaders over the Windrush generation immigration controversy.
May offered the apology at a Downing Street meeting with Commonwealth leaders as questions swirl over whether the Home Office has a grip on the unfolding scandal.
May told the summit of leaders: “I want to dispel any impression that my Government is in some sense clamping down on Commonwealth citizens, particularly those from the Caribbean.
“I take this issue very seriously. The Home Secretary apologised in the House of Commons yesterday for any anxiety caused. And I want to apologise to you today. Because we are genuinely sorry for any anxiety that has been caused.”
She added: “Those who arrived from the Caribbean before 1973 and lived here permanently without significant periods of time away in the last 30 years have the right to remain in the UK.
“As do the vast majority of long-term residents who arrived later, and I don’t want anybody to be in any doubt about their right to remain here in the United Kingdom.”
May said the Home Office had begun to demand documentation after reforms to access to the NHS.
She said: “This issue has come to light because of measures that we introduced recently to make sure that only those with a legal right to live here can access things like the NHS.
“And this has resulted in some people who – through no fault of their own – has resulted in some people now needing to be able to evidence their immigration status.
“And the overwhelming majority of the Windrush generation do have the documents that they need, but we are working hard to help those who do not.”
After the meeting Jamaican PM Andrew Holness said he accepted May’s apology, stating: “I believe that the right thing is being done at this time.”
Asked if he was satisfied that nobody had been deported as a result of UK paperwork issues, he said: “I asked the direct question of the Prime Minister, she was not able to say definitively that that was not the case.”
Holness said he did not know how many people had been affected by the controversy, but it was “at least” in the hundreds.
Asked if May was to blame for the situation, he said: “I can’t answer that question. The truth is that she has said there has been a policy change, that this was an unintended consequence.
“As Caribbean leaders we have to accept that in good faith.”
It has emerged this week that thousands who answered the post-World War II call to come to the UK to work in essential services are being denied access to state healthcare, losing their jobs and even being threatened with deportation.
Despite living in the UK for decades, many Commonwealth migrants were accused by the Home Office of not having the proper documentation in a move branded “shameful” by MPs across the Commons on Monday.
It came as Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said the Government was still not sure if any migrants have been wrongly deported as Whitehall staff were frantically checking records.
The case of 35-year-old Mozi Haynes, a Windrush Briton, who is said to be facing imminent deportation has been raised with the Home Office.
He said: “The Prime Minister must act urgently to halt this deportation and all other Windrush deportations.