Indians who migrated to the UK as Commonwealth citizens before 1971 are estimated as the second-largest nationality after Jamaicans, the group caught up in the ongoing Windrush scandal that has shaken up the UK government in recent weeks.
The scandal resulted in Home Secretary Amber Rudd being forced to resign early this morning after weeks of trying to curtail the crisis. The issue centres around thousands of UK-based Jamaicans facing forced deportations due to lack of documentary evidence that they had the right to live and work in Britain because they arrived pre-1973, when stricter new visa norms came into force for all Commonwealth nationals migrating to the UK.
No specific cases of Indians from that era facing unfair deportations have emerged so far but as many as 13,000 Indian nationals are estimated to fall within that criteria of migrants, according to the UK's Migration Observatory based at University of Oxford.
"The Windrush generation refers to citizens of former British colonies who arrived before 1973, when the rights of such Commonwealth citizens to live and work in Britain were substantially curtailed. While a large proportion of them were of Jamaican/Caribbean descent, they also included Indians and other South Asians," said Rob McNeil, Deputy Director of the Migration Observatory.
"There is a possibility that some of them may be affected by similar issues being faced by some Jamaican migrants," he said, noting that the analysis is based on very approximate figures.
The observatory estimates that approximately 57,000 people born in Commonwealth countries who have lived in the UK since 1970 or earlier are not documented as UK nationals. Within that figure, it identifies an estimated 15,000 Jamaicans, 13,000 Indians and 29,000 "others" who are non-UK nationals.
The group referred to as the "Windrush generation" relates to a ship named Windrush, which brought many of these Jamaican workers to UK shores in 1948. The scandal emerged as many who arrived as children around that period were struggling to access state services or even threatened with deportation because they did not possess any documents to prove they arrived before 1973. It led British Prime Minister Theresa May to issue a formal apology in Parliament and the UK Home Office, under then minister Rudd, announced a new taskforce to fast-track such cases towards citizenship.
"The offer, which will be available to people from all Commonwealth countries, not just Caribbean nationals, will extend to individuals who have no current documentation, those who already have leave to remain and want to advance their status, and children of the Windrush generation," the Home Office statement noted.
A compensation scheme has also been set up for individuals who suffered "loss or damage" because of their inability to evidence their right to be in the UK and to access services.
"It is only right that the significant contribution the Windrush generation have made to the UK is recognised. That is why I want to ensure they can acquire the status they deserve British citizenship quickly, at no cost and with proactive assistance through the process," Rudd said last week.
But days later, during her evidence before the House of Commons' Home Affairs Select Committee over the issue, she got embroiled in further scandal by denying knowledge of any targets set by her department to deport illegal migrants from the UK. This denial proved contradictory to a series of leaked letters and memos in the UK media, including a letter dated January 2017 in which Rudd told May about her "aim of increasing the number of enforced removals by more than 10 per cent over the next few years".
"I hope to visit Pakistan in the coming months to finalise a biometric returns agreement with the Pakistani Government," she noted in the leaked letter, which marked the final push for her resignation.
India has also been on the UK government's radar in terms of illegal immigration, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's UK visit this month expected to result in a renewed memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the return of such migrants. However, amid the escalating Windrush scandal, the announcement of the MoU did not take place.
"The only logical conclusion one can derive is that the agreement may have been put on hold in the wake of this scandal," said Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, Senior Fellow for South Asia at the influential International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank in London.
He believes the so-called Windrush scandal should serve as a "wake-up call" for the UK government in the context of projecting the image of a post-Brexit Global Britain looking to strike a new trade deal with India.
"There has been a decisive power shift in the relationship, where the UK needs India more than India needs the UK. And, these issues are all greatly linked and cannot be compartmentalised," he said.
The Indian government has repeatedly disputed the UK's claim that as many as 100,000 illegal Indians are currently in the country. It questions the validity of that figure, given the lack of any exit checks on the UK border.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)