The government is under mounting pressure to do something to help “Generation Windrush”, the British citizens who came to the United Kingdom as children from the Commonwealth between 1948 and 1971, and whose rights were guaranteed in the Immigration Act of 1971.
Now they are being forced to prove continuous residence in the United Kingdom since 1973 or face deportation, a bureaucratic hurdle that is simply proving impossible for many.
The problem is Theresa May’s flagship policy as Home Secretary: the hostile environment policy, under which landlords, hospitals, businesses and civil society have been forced to proactively prove that their employees, tenants and service users have the right to be in the United Kingdom. The theory is that it makes living in the UK so unbearable that immigrants will decide to leave of their own accord.
Although part of the problem is the institutional culture of the Home Office, you can’t have an hostile environment policy that doesn’t add further red tape to the lives of people with non-white skin or unusual names. (At least, not without a system of ID cards, which adds red tape to the lives of everybody, and in any case is a non-starter politically.)
The mess has achieved that rare feat: uniting practically everybody in the United Kingdom. Even the Mail has taken up the cause of Generation Windrush.
But while everyone can agree on the need for a solution, the only viable way out – a complete rethink of the government’s immigration policy since 2010 – is considerably more divisive.