THERESA May was dragged into the Windrush row this afternoon after the Home Office admitted it destroyed thousands of Caribbean migrants’ documents while she was in charge.
Officials said they had been made to get rid of registration slips back in October 2010 – when Mrs May was Home Secretary.
The cards could have been used by Caribbean-born Brits to prove the date they first arrived in the UK, bolstering their claim to be a citizen of this country.
Mrs May now faces calls to explain whether she personally authorised the decision to throw away the potentially crucial papers.
An ex-employee said the records, which were stored in the basement of a government tower block, were previously used to check the status of migrants who were finding it hard to provide proof of their residency.
The Guardian reported that scores of papers – which dated back to the 1950s and 1960s – were thrown away even after employees protested.
The paper said senior staff regularly consulted the landing cards, which recorded the names, dates of arrival, and in some cases the name of the ship.
Thousands of Windrush immigrants who came to the UK to live and work after World War II are now facing uncertain futures after they were asked to prove their stays in the UK.
Mrs May personally apologised today to Caribbean leaders for the “appalling” treatment some of them received – and some have faced deportation.
Ministers have said no one will have to leave while cases are being urgently looked into.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said yesterday she wasn’t aware of anyone who had been booted out of the country, but officials are now frantically double-checking records.
Today the Home Office insisted they had no choice but to throw away the documents, because the Data Protection Act imposes a duty not to keep records for longer than is necessary.
Officials also claimed the papers wouldn’t be that useful to many migrants, because they don’t prove that the individual concerned has lived in the UK non-stop.
A spokesman told the Sun this evening:Â “Registration slips provided details of an individualâs date of entry, they did not provide any reliable evidence relating to ongoing residence in the UK or their immigration status.
“So it would be misleading and inaccurate to suggest that registration slips would therefore have a bearing on immigration cases whereby Commonwealth citizens are proving residency in the UK.”