Amber Rudd resigns as UK Home Secretary

Andrew MacAskill
UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has resigned following a scandal over the treatment of migrants

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd has resigned after Prime Minister Theresa May's government faced an outpouring of indignation over its treatment of long-term Caribbean residents who were wrongly labelled illegal immigrants.

The resignation of one of May's closest allies is a blow as she navigates the final year of negotiations ahead of Britain's exit from the European Union in March 2019.

In a resignation letter to May, Amber Rudd said she had inadvertently misled a parliamentary committee by denying the government had targets for the deportation of illegal migrants.

British ministers have been struggling to explain why some descendants of the so-called "Windrush generation", invited to Britain to plug labour shortfalls between 1948 and 1971, had been denied basic rights.

The Windrush scandal raised questions about May's six-year stint as interior minister before she became prime minister in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

"The Windrush scandal has rightly shone a light on an important issue for our country," Rudd said in a resignation letter to May late on Sunday.

Rudd, who was appointed Home Secretary in 2016, said voters wanted those who had the right to reside in Britain to be treated fairly and humanely but also that illegal immigrants be removed.

The opposition Labour Party, which had repeatedly called on Rudd to resign, said May was responsible and should explain her own role in the government's immigration policies.

Diane Abbott, Labour's spokeswoman on interior affairs, called on May to give a statement to the House of Commons explaining whether she knew Rudd was misleading parliament about deportation targets.

Rudd, 54, told lawmakers on Wednesday that Britain did not have targets for the removal of immigrants, but was forced to clarify her words after leaked documents showed targets did exist.

The Guardian newspaper on Sunday reported a letter from Rudd to May last year in which she stated an "ambitious but deliverable" aim for an increase in the enforced deportation of immigrants.

After repeated challenges to her testimony on the deportation of immigrants, Rudd telephoned May on Sunday and offered her resignation.

"I feel it is necessary to do so because I inadvertently misled the Home Affairs Select Committee over targets for removal of illegal immigrants," Rudd told May.

The government has apologised for the fiasco, promised citizenship and compensation to those affected, including to people who have lost their jobs, been threatened with deportation and denied benefits because of the errors.

The immigrants are named after the Empire Windrush, one of the first ships to bring Caribbean migrants to Britain in 1948.

Almost half a million people left their homes in the West Indies to live in Britain between 1948 and 1970.

A week before local elections, May apologised to the black community on Thursday in a letter to The Voice, Britain's national Afro-Caribbean newspaper.

"We have let you down and I am deeply sorry," she said. "But apologies alone are not good enough. We must urgently right this historic wrong."