By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) – British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday formally apologized to 12 Caribbean leaders for the U.K. government’s treatment to a group of citizens who arrived from Commonwealth countries decades ago.
The apology came after reports that some citizens, who are called the Windrush generation — after the name of a ship that carried thousands of Caribbeans to the U.K. — were identified by the Home Office as illegal immigrants due to lack of proof of their citizenship status.
May said in a meeting at the government offices at Downing Street with the Caribbean leaders that she was “genuinely sorry” about the anxiety caused and the U.K. "valued" the contributions of the Windrush citizens.
The immigration checks in the U.K. have been made stricter following the 2016 referendum where British voters decided to leave the EU.
"This has resulted in some people, through no fault of their own, now needing to be able to evidence their immigration status," she said.
"Those who arrived from the Caribbean before 1973 and lived here permanently without significant periods of time away in the last 30 years have the right to remain in the U.K.,” she added.
"As do the vast majority of long-term residents who arrived later, and I don't want anybody to be in any doubt about their right to remain here in the United Kingdom."
A government letter signed by Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes and Commonwealth Minister Lord Ahmed, also promised there will be "no removals or detentions".
The apology followed a House of Commons apology from Home Secretary Amber Rudd on Monday.
Rudd pledged a solution of the issue within two weeks of any fee-free application by a special team of 20 officers at the Home Office.
Approximately 500,000 people who were born in a Commonwealth country and arrived before 1971 live in the U.K.
Most of the Jamaican and some other Caribbean residents lack their own documents as they had arrived in the U.K. on their parents’ passports as children.