LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s new home secretary Sajid Javid on Monday attempted to distance himself from the “hostile environment” approach to a crackdown on illegal immigration which was favoured by Prime Minister Theresa May during her time in the job.
Javid told parliament he was working to resolve the situation of the so-called “Windrush” migrants after a scandal that forced her predecessor Amber Rudd to resign because she misled parliament over the government’s immigration policy.
The government has been struggling to explain why some descendants of the “Windrush generation”, invited to Britain to plug labour shortfalls between 1948 and 1971, have been denied basic rights and have been incorrectly labelled as illegal immigrants.
Tighter border policies are in part a legacy of May’s time as interior minister – a role she held for six years before becoming prime minister in 2016.
May in 2012 said she wanted to create a “really hostile environment for illegal immigrants” and rules were tightened that ended up affecting people they hadn’t been designed to target.
“I don’t like the phrase hostile,” Javid said. “So the terminology is incorrect and I think it is a phrase that is unhelpful and it doesn’t represent our values as country to use that phrase. It is about a compliant environment and it is right that we have a compliant environment.”
The government has apologised to Windrush migrants and their families, promised citizenship and compensation to those affected, including to people who have lost their jobs and been threatened with deportation because of the errors.
Javid said the interior ministry is investigating about 2,500 cases and has resolved about 100 cases.
“This never should have been the case and I will do whatever it takes to put it right,” he said.
Reporting Andrew MacAskill; editing by Alistair Smout