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Amber Rudd has resigned as home secretary after repeatedly struggling to explain her role in the unjust treatment of Windrush generation migrants.
The home secretary had faced mounting pressure over her role in setting the culture and policies that led to long-term residents of Britain from Caribbean countries being denied healthcare, pensions and benefits and in some cases being threatened with deportation.
Rudd had been due to appear before parliament on Monday to explain apparent discrepancies between her evidence to the home affairs select committee last week and a memo leaked to the Guardian that linked her to targets for removing migrants.
Challenged repeatedly about such targets by Labour MP Yvette Cooper at the home affairs select committee, Rudd had insisted: “That’s not how we operate.”
Downing Street sources said that in preparing for her Commons statement on Monday, new information had become available that convinced her she must resign. However, they continued to insist that the “ambition” for a 10% increase in removals mentioned in a separate leaked letter was not a formal target.
Rudd spoke to the prime minister by telephone on Sunday evening to tender her resignation.
Labour said she was effectively acting as a “human shield” for May, whose policy when she was home secretary of creating a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants was blamed for causing the problems they now faced.
The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Sir Ed Davey, said: “It’s clear that Amber Rudd has ended up, at least partly, being the fall guy to protect the prime minister. Theresa May must face questions now, given these dreadful failures largely took place under her watch as home secretary.”
Rudd’s departure will also upset the delicate balance within the cabinet between leavers and remainers ahead of a crucial meeting of the Brexit “war cabinet” on Wednesday to discuss Britain’s future customs relationship with the European Union.
The environment secretary, Michael Gove, one of the leading Brexiters in the cabinet, was being touted as the front-runner to replace her at the Home Office.
David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, tweeted in reaction to Rudd’s resignation: “The campaign for justice on behalf of the Windrush generation is not just about political scalps.
“At its heart, this crisis is about a system that was allowed to dehumanise and victimise Windrush British citizens. Amber Rudd resigned because she didn’t know what was going on in her own department and she had clearly lost the confidence of her own civil servants. The real issue is the hostile environment policy that caused this crisis in the first place.”
Anthony Bryan, 60, who has spent five weeks in immigration removal centres over the past two years, despite having lived in the UK for over half a century, was one of the first people interviewed in the Guardian last November about the Home Office’s behaviour towards him. He said he “nearly fell over” with shock when he heard the news of her resignation.
“It’s a shock. I feel like I helped bring down the home secretary. I wouldn’t say I am pleased; I feel sorry for her in a sense because it looks like she is taking the punishment for Theresa May,” he said.
But he acknowledged that Rudd had not handled things well in her answers on deportation targets. “Either she was lying or she didn’t know. I think she resigned because she didn’t want to face Monday.”
Bryan was eight when he arrived in the UK, where he worked and paid taxes for more than four decades until he was told that was illegal and he had no right to work, welcomed the news as a sign that the Windrush scandal was finally being taken seriously.
Cardlin Johnson, whose brothers were both Windrush victims, said that the news was bittersweet. “Rudd had to go because of her performance and because of her denials of the targets,” she said.
“But we all know that Theresa May is the architect of that 2014 migration policy. I feel like it is one down, one to go. My personal opinion is Theresa May next. May should be looking over her shoulder now.”
But she added that she was concerned that the resignation could slow down the process of trying to get practical problems solved for the Windrush victims. “More than likely this will slow up compensation,” she said. “But that’s a question for later. People now just need to get the papers they need so they can get their life back on track.” (The Guardian)