Amid increasing pressure from MPs and the public, as well as the searing burn of the media spotlight, Amber Rudd has finally resigned following the Home Office’s disastrous handling of the Windrush scandal.
Almost seventy years ago, in June of 1948, 492 passengers from Commonwealth Caribbean countries arrived in an Essex dock to help rebuild a war-ravaged Britain. The ship that carried them, MV Empire Windrush, carried adults who were promised the right to live and work in Britain, and a great many believed themselves to already be citizens, having lived in the Commonwealth for the entirety of their lives. The children aboard had no documents proving their citizenship, nor did they imagine they should need such files, having been the children of people invited to these shores.
Fast forward to modern day and ‘generation Windrush’ are fighting the cruel laws introduced by the Tories in 2014. Changes to immigration law four years ago mean people now require documentation in order to work, access benefits such as healthcare, or rent property. The stories of people being ordered to leave the country they call home or told their much-needed operation won’t be going ahead have been as common as they have miserable.
The architect of the laws, Theresa May, said they were intended to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants. Four years on, May’s Hostile Environment policy is bearing its rotten fruit, with confirmed deportations of Windrush migrants, and many more losing jobs and homes.
In an effort to ingratiate herself with May, Rudd had ruthlessly championed the Hostile Environment policy since becoming Home Secretary in 2016. In early 2017 she told May she wanted to provide immigration officials more “teeth” in their efforts to deport thousands more illegal migrants. Only a few months later the Windrush generation began being threatened with deportation.
Rudd lied to a home affairs select committee questioning last Wednesday, saying the Home Office doesn’t “have targets for removals”, leaks on Friday and then Sunday proved she was indeed aware of targets, and was intent on increasing them (on Friday we learned her department wanted “12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18”. While on Sunday The Guardian published a 2017 private letter sent from Rudd to May that outlined Rudd’s determination to increase enforced returns by 10%).
Rudd was a useful ally for May, a convenient scapegoat as she bore the brunt for a policy May set in motion. Her departure sees a cabinet balanced on a knife edge, hard brexiteers and anti-May MPs are felt keenly on the front bench, and May is now at her weakest point in a troubled tenure.
Now that the hapless Rudd has left, the callous Hostile Environment policy must be reviewed, although given the anti-immigration sentiment of the majority of the Tory party, we should expect this particular strain of nastiness to stick around.