British Home Secretary Amber Rudd has resigned after Prime Minister Theresa May’s government faced intense criticism for its treatment of long-term Caribbean residents who were wrongly labelled illegal immigrants.
A spokesman for Ms May was not immediately available for comment on Sunday night local time, but a British government official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed a BBC report that Ms 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 labour shortfalls between 1948 and 1971, had been labelled as illegal immigrants.
The Windrush scandal overshadowed the Commonwealth summit in London and has raised questions about Ms May’s six-year stint as interior minister before she became prime minister in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Ms 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 Ms Rudd to Ms 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, Ms Rudd telephoned Ms 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 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.
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.
Ms Rudd, one of the most pro-EU senior ministers in Ms May’s cabinet, was appointed Home Secretary in July 2016.
Ms 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.”
The crisis has focused attention on Ms 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.
Ms 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.