By Andrew MacAskill
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s interior minister has resigned on Sunday after Prime Minister Theresa May’s government faced criticism for its treatment of some long-term Caribbean residents who were wrongly labeled illegal immigrants, a government official said.
A spokesman for May was not immediately available for comment but a British government official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed a BBC report that Home Secretary Amber Rudd had resigned.
For two weeks, British ministers have been struggling to explain why some descendants of the so-called “Windrush generation”, invited to Britain to plug labor shortfalls between 1948 and 1971, had been labeled as illegal immigrants.
The Windrush scandal overshadowed the Commonwealth summit in London and has raised questions about May’s six-year stint as interior minister before she became prime minister in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Rudd, 54, had faced repeated calls from the opposition Labour Party to resign after she gave contradictory statements over whether the government had targets for deportations.
The Guardian newspaper 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 which was accepted, the source said.
A replacement is not likely to be announced tonight, another source said.
The government has apologized 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.
But the controversy over policies which May is closely associated with has raised awkward questions about how the pursuit of lower immigration after Britain’s 2019 exit from the European Union sits alongside the desire to be an outward-looking global economy.
Rudd, one of the most pro-EU senior ministers in May’s cabinet, was appointed Home Secretary in July 2016.
A week before local elections, May apologized 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.”
The crisis has focused attention on May, who as interior minister set out to create a “really hostile environment” for illegal immigrants, imposing tough new requirements in 2012 for people to prove their legal status.
Rudd’s resignation comes four months after another close ally and her then most senior minister, Damian Green, was forced out of his job for lying about whether he knew pornography had been found on computers in his parliamentary office.
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)