Britain's new home secretary has promised to do "whatever it takes" to put right the Windrush scandal, which saw immigrants threatened with deportation after living legally in the country for decades. Sajid Javid was speaking in the House of Commons hours after he replaced Amber Rudd, who resigned as home secretary on Sunday night.
“I want to start by making a pledge, a pledge to those from the Windrush generation who have been in this country for decades and yet have struggled to navigate through the immigration system: This never should have been the case and I will do whatever it takes to put it right,” he said.
The son of Pakistani immigrants, Mr Javid said his own background made him especially sensitive to the injustice suffered by the immigrants from the Caribbean affected by the Windrush scandal.
“Like the Caribbean Windrush generation, my parents came to this country from the Commonwealth in the 1960s. They too came to help rebuild this country and offer all that they had. So when I heard that people who were long-standing pillars of their community were being impacted for simply not having the right documents to prove their legal status in the UK, I thought that it could be my mum, my brother, my uncle or even me,” he said.
“That’s why I am so personally committed to and invested in resolving the difficulties faced by the people of the Windrush generation who have built their lives here and contributed so much.”
Ms Rudd resigned after "inadvertently misleading" a parliamentary committee about targets set by the home office for deporting illegal immigrants. Ms Rudd initially said that no such targets existed, later acknowledging that they did but claiming to have been unaware of them. She resigned after the Guardian published a letter Ms Rudd wrote to prime minister Theresa May in January referring to the targets.
Ms May, who was home secretary for six years before becoming prime minister, said on Monday she was aware of deportation targets when she was at the home office but defended her tough stance on immigration.
“When I was home secretary, yes there were targets in terms of removing people from the country who are here illegally,” she said. “This is important. If you talk to the members of the public, they want to make sure we are dealing with people who are here illegally.”
Mr Javid has never enjoyed a comfortable relationship with the prime minister, whom he criticised after last year’s election for her conduct of the campaign. A Thatcherite, free market liberal who entered politics after a successful career in banking, he has shown little interest in immigration as an issue.
In the House of Commons on Monday, he distanced himself from Ms May’s approach, particularly the “hostile environment” she wished to create for illegal immigrants.
“I think the terminology is incorrect, I think it’s a phrase that is unhelpful and does not represent the values as a country,” he said.
Mr Javid's successor as housing and communities secretary is James Brokenshire, who stepped down as Northern Ireland secretary in January ahead of surgery for a tumour on his lung.