Diane Abbott
Shadow Home Secretary and Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington

There are many lessons to be learned from how poorly our own citizens have been treated. We still do not know the extent to which people have been wrongly detained for immigration reasons, and the Government has provided no answers on how many people have been bullied or threatened into so-called voluntary removals.
There has been much discussion over the Windrush generation and the valuable contribution they have made to lives of people in the UK – all in response to a Commonwealth recruitment call from the ‘mother country’. But the Government has never understood what that means, or never translated that into policy.
The Windrush generation came here to help rebuild the country after the Second World War. They came with an array of skills and filled staff shortages in many areas including schools and transport, as well as a newly formed National Health Service. It was clear who our friends were, and we still recognise the valuable contribution people from other countries make to our society and economy.
The Tories now admit that British citizens have been excluded after returning from overseas trips; maybe a wedding, a funeral or family holiday. Windrush citizens have died waiting for confirmation that they were here legally.
There have been repeated failures to protect Windrush citizens that could have been avoided. Home Office delays have caused distress for those waiting for decisions on visa applications, exacerbated by the burden of proof relying on them to prove that they are here legally, rather than the state to prove that they are not.
I, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell all warned before the 2014 Immigration Act that people would be falsely accused of being illegal immigrants because of their names, accents and the colour of their skin. That is exactly what has happened.
We should be also be clear that the entire Windrush generation is all those from the whole Commonwealth, not solely the Caribbean, who came here before 1973.
Furthermore, the Windrush scandal has brought to wider attention the failure of government policy when it comes to the detention of migrants.
When I was an MP in the 1990s, detention centres were introduced, and we were told in parliament that there would be no need for strict rules of due process because no person would be detained longer than 28 days in detention centres. They were never meant to be prisons sentences where people are locked up for months, even years on end.
As long as indefinite detention continues, this will cause real suffering to thousands of people. The time has come for real change and the demand for indefinite detentions to end.
Labour believes that the front line staff of government agencies should carry out their defined roles. Through the hostile environment approach that we have seen, teachers, health workers, employers and landlords turned into snoops and ineffective and internal border guards.
The Windrush scandal goes right to the very heart of Theresa May’s hostile environment policy; it was not accidental; rather, it is a direct consequence of policies not just made to make migrants feel unwelcome, but to actively ruin the lives of people that we have relied on. The next Labour Government will repeal those parts of the policy that were introduced to support the hostile environment.
Theresa May has had to apologise for the implications of the draconian 2014 Immigration Act – the legal underpinning to the hostile environment policy. Labour, in government, will be committed to ending the hostile policies and overturning the act that supports them.
If Windrush teaches us anything, if there is one lesson to learn, it is that we need to value migrants and recognise that migration adds to our prosperity. Unless and until we come to that realisation, I fear we will not make the progress we could. The Tories have made a mess of immigration which only Labour can fix.