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LABOUR condemned Theresa May today after she defended her “hostile environment” immigration policies that led to people from the Windrush generation being deported, detained and stripped of their livelihoods.
The Prime Minister apologised for the scandal that has seen a number of Caribbean-born British citizens being denied their rights under the Immigration Act she devised when she was home secretary, but declined to apologise for the policy itself.
On BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show before the Conservative conference started in Birmingham, Ms May said that it was right for the Act to target individuals who were in the country illegally, but that it should not have been applied in Windrush cases – though Labour MP Diane Abbott, now shadow home secretary, had warned her in Parliament at the time that the legislation was likely to see British nationals targeted.
Ms May could not give an answer when asked how many people from the Windrush generation had lost their homes, their jobs and their benefits or been refused NHS treatment as a result of her hostile environment policy.
Ms May added: “These people are British. We have apologised for what happened to these people.
“It is right that we are making every effort to ensure that we can give people, not just the right papers, but the confidence and the reassurance of knowing that what they always felt and knew, and that what everybody else always felt and knew, is not in question. They are part of us.”
In response to her platitudes, Ms Abbott said Ms May’s refusal to apologise for the policy was “disgusting.”
She added: “It is astonishing that the Prime Minister doesn’t care to know how many people have been denied access to healthcare or lost their homes.
“The Windrush scandal has exposed a moral failure at the heart of this rotten government. Lives have been destroyed. Theresa May should hang her head in shame.”
Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy tweeted that Ms May’s having said sorry for the effects of her policies amounted to a “non-apology.”
He also wrote: “You are the architect of the policy. Take responsibility for all those British citizens who were wrongly detained, deported, made destitute and denied access to housing and the NHS on your watch. End the hostile environment.”
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