Michael Gove insists UK is liberal and welcoming as Windrush anger grows

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Michael Gove has insisted that post-Brexit Britain will have a “positive, welcoming, liberal, forward-looking” immigration policy after a former head of the civil service revealed some in government saw ‘hostile environment’ practices to crack down on illegal immigration as “almost reminiscent of Nazi Germany".

The number of cases where members of the so-called Windrush generation of migrants have allegedly been wrongly threatened with deportation rose to 113, amid a growing row over who is to blame for the controversy.

Campaigners for families caught up in the Windrush generation controversy have called for a review of the hostile environment policy initiative, which has progressively extended requirements for foreigners to prove their immigration status to access public and private services.

READ MORE: Row continues over responsibility for ‘Windrush’ generation scandal
Polly McKenzie, a former Liberal Democrat special adviser in the coalition government, claimed the “Home Office lost touch with its humanity” when instituting new immigration restrictions.

But the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy defended Theresa May from accusations that she was responsible for the current crisis, arguing in a newspaper column that “we cannot allow it to be used to overturn good policies”.

Lord Kerslake, who was in charge of the civil service between 2012 and 2014, said ministers in the coalition government were “deeply unhappy” with the approach implemented by Mrs May as Home Secretary.

"I think it was not just a question of the home secretary being told it was a challenging policy, the prime minister was as well,” he told the BBC’s Newsnight on Wednesday.

"This was a very contested piece of legislation across government departments.

"Now, I can't say, and shouldn't say, as the former head of the civil service, precisely who gave what advice to whom. But, what I can tell you, it was highly contested and there were some who saw it, I shan't name them, as almost reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the way it's working."

Lord Kerslake added that it was "completely ridiculous" for Home Secretary Amber Rudd to try to blame civil servants for the Windrush situation.

"You cannot create a climate and then not expect it to have consequences,” he said.

READ MORE: Who are the Windrush generation?

Labour MP David Lammy, who has acted on behalf of Windrush generation residents, called for lessons to be learned and demanded a review to establish “how and why our immigration system treats people in this way, and what reforms are needed to prevent any further cruelty and injustices."

In the House of Commons, the SNP’s Pete Wishart joined calls for further scrutiny of the Windrush controversy. "This is an issue that is not going to go away, it's going to get worse and worse for this Government,” he said.

It came as the mother of a Windrush child claimed the stress caused by immigration problems led to his death aged 57.

Dexter Bristol moved to the UK in 1968 when he was eight and spent the rest of his life in the country. He is reported to have lost his job as a cleaner because of questions over his right to be in the country, and then denied benefits.

He died on the Thursday before Good Friday, aged 57, before receiving a letter suggesting a breakthrough in his case. Mrs Bristol said the Prime Minister should be "ashamed of herself".

On the BBC’s Today programme, Mr Gove rejected claims that UK immigration policy created a ‘hostile environment’.

“That phrase has been paraded around as though it were somehow emblematic of Britain.,” he said. “It’s not.

“What is emblematic of Britain is the welcome that we gave the Windrush generation… and also the fact that now, outside the European Union, we can have a truly colour-blind migration policy that, if the British people want to, treats people from the Bahamas in the same way we treat people from Bulgaria.”

READ MORE: Home Secretary apologises for ‘appalling’ treatment of Windrush immigrants