Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is to meet with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders to discuss the situation of pre-1971 Caribbean undocumented United Kingdom (UK) immigrants.
Last weekend, the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) said an action plan to secure a permanent solution to the situation may be high on the agenda at the April 19-20 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London.
It said that it is anticipated that the situation will be thoroughly dealt with should officials decide to discuss the problems facing undocumented residents, which include the denial of access to critical services.
The statement said that this discussion follows briefings by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Diplomatic Missions at the St. Kitts and Nevis High Commission in London last Thursday regarding the predicament many elderly Caribbean migrants are facing.
London said that Prime Minister May deeply values the contribution of Commonwealth citizens who moved to the UK many decades ago and stressed that nobody with a right to be in the country would be made to leave.
Britain had initially rejected a formal diplomatic request from the 12 countries, which are in London for the CHOGM this week.
““We did make a request to the CHOGM summit team for a meeting to be held between the prime minister and the Commonwealth Caribbean heads of government who will be here for the CHOGM and regrettably they have advised us that that is not possible,” said Guy Hewitt, the Barbados High Commissioner who is quoted in The Guardian newspaper here.
The paper said that Downing Street’s change of heart followed the publication of a letter sent to May and signed by more than 140 legislators from across the political spectrum. The letter expressed concern about the many long-term British residents who have been incorrectly identified as illegal immigrants.
“I’m deeply concerned to hear about difficulties some of the Windrush generation are facing with their immigration status. This should not happen to people who have been longstanding pillars of our community. The government is looking into this urgently,” Sajid Javid, the communities’ secretary, tweeted on Monday.
Downing Street said May had only become aware of the request on Monday morning and confirmed that she would be holding a meeting “at the earliest possible opportunity” with the Caribbean leaders.
“She deeply values the contribution made by these and all Commonwealth citizens who have made a life in the UK and is making sure the home office is offering the correct solution for individual situations,” said her official spokesman.
“She is aware that many people are unlikely to have documents that are over 40 years old and is clear that no one with the right to be here will be made to leave,’ the spokesman said, adding that the Home Office would look at individual cases with “great sensitivity”, suggesting the department could provide extra support to help people navigate the system.
“[May] is going to make sure that we’re offering the correct solution for individual situations. Each situation may well be different but we need to make sure that we have the support there to help people through the process,” he said.
Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, is expected to provide more details in a statement in the Commons later on Monday.