On 23 April, the UK Government's former Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, announced that members of the 'Windrush generation' who arrived in the UK before 1973 will be eligible for free UK citizenship. As well as not having to pay the fees associated with a citizenship application, those affected will not be required to pass the Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK test. The Home Office has also confirmed that a compensation scheme will be set up for individuals who have suffered loss or damage because of their inability to evidence their right to be in the UK.
The Windrush generation refers to those migrants who arrived in the UK between 1948 and 1971. They were named after the ship MV Empire Windrush, which arrived in Trinity Docks, Essex, on 22 June 1948. The ship brought workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other islands, as a response to post-war labour shortages in the UK, and carried 492 passengers, many of them children. Many of these new arrivals became manual workers, cleaners, drivers and nurses.
The Immigration Act 1971, granted Indefinite Leave to Remain to all Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK. However, the Home Office did not keep a record of those granted with leave to remain or issue paperwork to confirm this. Also in 2010, the Home Office destroyed landing cards belonging to the Windrush migrants.
Due to changes in Immigration law in 2012, those who lack documentation were facing problems as a result of having to prove their immigration status in order to work, rent a property or access benefits, including healthcare. The children of the Windrush migrants have been particularly affected by this, many of whom arrived on their parents' passport and not their own. People were having their driving licenses withdrawn and were losing their jobs. In other cases, people who have spent their lives in the UK were having difficulties returning to the country to reside or even visit. The Government are taking active steps to ensure that these problems are addressed immediately and have made public statements to confirm that the Windrush migrants have an entitlement to stay here.
The offer of free UK citizenship will extend to people from all Commonwealth countries that have no current documentation, not just Caribbean nationals. People who arrived in the UK post 1971, between 1973 and 1988, will also be assisted in finding the most suitable immigration route to regularise their status in the UK.
A new customer contact centre has been set up to assist anyone who is struggling to navigate the many different immigration routes, to speak to an appropriate advisor who can offer expert advice and identify any issues quickly. There will be a dedicated team to help people confirm their status and the aim is to issue a decision on any application within 2 weeks of the necessary evidence being collected. To date this new team has already successfully resolved 9 cases and made 84 appointments to issue documents to affected individuals.
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