Home Secretary Amber Rudd is facing increasing calls for her resignation after it emerged that as she was telling MPs that the Home Office has no targets for removals, the Home Office were confirming what many suffering from the Windrush scandal already knew, Home Office staff were under pressure to remove people from the country.
Amber Rudd furiously backpeddled in front of MPs, responding to urgent an urgent parliamentary question on the growing debacle of Home Office incompetence, cruelty and ‘institutional racism’ today.
She was forced to admit that the Home Office set strict local targets for removing migrants who were in the UK illegally, having previously insisted that her department did not set targets.
The Home Secretary claimed she had not been aware of the targets in her department when she had made her previous untrue statement.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said her Conservative counterpart was “trying to blame officials” and insisted she did not see how Amber Rudd could survive the scandal “unless she is only there as a human shield for Theresa May.”
Diane Abbott calls for Amber Rudd to resign over the Windrush scandal pic.twitter.com/eYoz1OBlgc
— Sky News (@SkyNews) April 26, 2018
The Windrush debacle involves people from Commonwealth Caribbean countries who settled in the UK from the late 1940s to the 1970s to help rebuild postwar Britain, as well as their relatives. Many have found themselves treated as illegal immigrants if they can’t provide evidence of their continuous life in the UK.
It has emerged that the Home Office despite warnings destroyed their disembarkation slips in 2010 when Theresa May was Home Secretary which has not helped matters. (Theresa May told the House of Commons that she had not made the decision, the previous Labour Government had, but minutes later her spokesman was blaming civil servants.)
Neither has the “hostile envionrment” that Theresa May sought to create for “illegal immigrants,” which included targets for deportation and unsympathetic Home Office staff. A Home Office whistleblower last week described how staff had a “gotcha” attitude towards people struggling to get hold the reams of documentation necessary.
The Windrush generation have been threatened with deportation, lost their jobs or been refused access to medical treatment, all of which was described as “institutional racism” by Labour’s shadow women and equalities minister Dawn Butler.
Labour and SNP MPs urged both Amber Rudd and Theresa May to resign over their handling of the Windrush crisis.
But Rudd today insisted that she was the best person to put the situation right: “I do take seriously my responsibility but I do think I am the person who can put it right. I understand the House will want to hold me to account for that, but I am confident the changes I am committed to putting in place and the transparency that will go with that will deliver the changes that are expected.”
Diane Abbott said: “Immigration officials may have been looking for soft targets in the shape of West Indian pensioners who don’t have hot shot lawyers,” and called for Rudd to resign again.
Her Labour frontbench colleague, Dawn Butler, said Theresa May was “presiding over a government that has policies that are institutionally racist”. And the SNP’s home affairs spokeswoman Alison Thewlis said Rudd should resign as her department was clearly “out of control” and it was “no surprise” targets existed as there was “a litany of callous incompetence” at the Home Office.
Amber Rudd repeatedly referring to "illegals" during urgent question on migrant removal targets. I'm not sure that is particularly helpful language.
— Jack Maidment (@jrmaidment) April 26, 2018
Alison Thewliss says Amber Rudd is "presiding over a department out of control" and calls for her resignation pic.twitter.com/BkQBbNMFP2
— Sky News (@SkyNews) April 26, 2018
Addressing the Home Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday, Amber Rudd had insisted: “We don’t have targets for removals.”
But Lucy Moreton, general secretary of the Immigration Service Union told MPs that there was a national target, broken down regionally to remove people in the UK illegally, and staff were under “increasing pressure” to meet it.
Further evidence has emerged that Theresa May as Home Secretary had been warned as early as two years ago about the Windrush scandal. All of which makes sacking her Home Secretary Amber Rudd, however inadequate her responses to the growing scandal impossible for the Prime Minister.
Much of the responsibility for the current shambles and cruel policies of the Home Office go back to Theresa May’s seven years as Home Secretary, which is why there was a ring of steel of Tory ministers supporting Amber Rudd today, including Michael Gove, the environment secretary, and Sajid Javid, the housing secretary sat beside her.
Many pointed out that Tory MPs referring to “illegal immigrants” was a distraction and offensive ot the Windrush generation as the whole point is that they came to the UK legally, paid taxes for generations and should be British.
Theresa May has been forced to make three apologies on the issue. But the Government is trying to sneak in a clause using the Data Protection Bill removing data access rights for anyone when it comes to immigration. This sinister clause would mean you will not be able to check if Home Office records on you are correct. And one thing to cone out of this debacle is the evidence that often they are not.
Was this the moment Amber Rudd revealed she has no grip on #Windrush or her department?
"Targets for removals when were they set?" asks @yvettecooper
"Err we don't have targets for removals," says Amber Rudd.
"But you did," says Cooper.
"I don't know what you are talking about." pic.twitter.com/2WVMSjD662
— Alan Travis (@alantravis40) April 26, 2018
The Home Office is now set to scrap performance targets for removals, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg has reported this afternoon.
Many Conservative cabinet ministers privately want to abandon the commitment that Theresa May has consistenly failed to meet to get annual net migration below 100,000, but May is wedded to continuing to keep the target that many opporition MPs and commentators have branded unhelpful and unrealistic.
Whether she will continue to keep this target she never met as Home Secretary remains to be seen.