The Home Office was responsible for destroying thousands of landing card slips recording Windrush immigrants’ arrival dates in the UK, a former employee has revealed.
Despite warnings that the move would make it harder to check the records of older Caribbean-born residents experiencing residency difficulties, it was decided in 2010 to destroy the disembarkation cards, which dated back to the 1950s and 60s, when the Home Office’s Whitgift Centre in Croydon was closed and the staff were moved to another site.
According to reports in The Guardian employees told their managers it was a bad idea, because these papers were often the last remaining record of a person’s arrival date, in the event of uncertainty or lost documents.
The files were destroyed in October that year, when Theresa May was home secretary.
The Labour MP David Lammy said: “This revelation from a whistleblower reveals that the problems being faced by the Windrush generation are not down to one-off bureaucratic errors but as a direct result of systemic incompetence, callousness and cruelty within our immigration system.
“It is an absolute disgrace that the Home Office has destroyed these documents and then forced Windrush-generation migrants to try and prove their status, threatening them with deportation and stripping them of their rights.
“This was no accident and the orders to destroys records must have come from somebody at the top of the department. It is time for the home secretary to do the honourable thing, take responsibility for this fiasco and resign.”