A former top official has severely criticised British Prime Minister Theresa May’s immigration policies when she was interior minister after the threatened deportations of Caribbean immigrants caused a political furore this week.
Bob Kerslake, a former head of the civil service and a member of the House of Lords, told BBC Newsnight that May’s aim to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants were seen by other ministers as “almost reminiscent of Nazi Germany”.
The policy has come under the spotlight amid an outcry this week that people invited to move to Britain from the Caribbean in the 1950s and 1960s — the so-called Windrush generation — have been threatened with deportations.
“This was a very contested piece of legislation across government departments,” said Kerslake, who was in charge of the civil service between 2012 and 2014.
“There were some who saw it… as almost reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the way it’s working,” said Kerslake, who now advises opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
May’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove told BBC radio he had “never heard anyone make that comparison”.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron’s centre-right Conservative government vowed to create a “hostile environment” for people not authorised to be in Britain after it took office in 2010.
But it has now emerged that the strategy, which gave landlords and employers powers to target illegal immigrants or face penalties, led to the targeting of legal immigrants lacking paperwork.
Campaigners for families caught up in the controversy have called for a review of the highly contentious initiative.
The government has admitted the policy wrongly impacted the “Windrush” generation, and has set up a task force to examine their cases.
But it has noted that some decisions, such as destroying the landing cards of some affected, were taken by civil servants.
Kerslake said it was “completely ridiculous” to try to blame the civil service for the situation.
“You cannot create a climate and then not expect it to have consequences,” he added.