The backlash against the mistreatment of Windrush children is growing. The furore has registered with the government, but the response has been dismal. Representatives of 12 Caribbean countries made a formal diplomatic request to discuss the problems being experienced by some Windrush-generation British residents at this week’s meeting of the Commonwealth heads of government. In a dramatic u-turn today the prime minister has acquiesced and said she will meet them, but her ill judged initial refusal makes this decision seem forced and insincere.

Post-Brexit, the Commonwealth could be a useful global network, and with the first major summit in many years taking place this week, it’s baffling that the prime minister ever thought it a good idea to issue such a major snub. It has given Caribbean diplomats the distinct impression that the UK government doesn’t care about the problems being experienced by long term residents of the UK who came here as children.

Many Brexiteers have championed the Commonwealth as an important platform for “global Britain” after our EU membership ends. They should be shouting the loudest about this if they’re really serious. This scandal makes Britain look like a petty, xenophobic little country, not an open, forward thinking country embracing a global future.

Minister Caroline Nokes has written an article at attempting to strike a conciliatory tone, but in her attempt to reassure, she has insensitively downplayed the suffering people have already experienced. By  saying the  crackdown on Windrush children is a ‘myth’ she has cack-handedly insulted victims of bad policy.

“My main priority here is to dispel the myth that this Government is clamping down on Commonwealth citizens – particularly those from the Caribbean – who have built a life here.”

It’s true that a crackdown solely focused on the Windrush generation is a myth. The net has been cast far wider than that. The government’s “hostile environment” policy is designed to make life unpleasant for all foreign-born residents, but in this case it’s persecuting people that have been here for fifty years or more, and are as British as a Sunday roast and a cup of tea in times of crisis. That’s why it’s getting publicity.

MPs and ministers seem to be waking up to the growing scandal, but they are refusing to accept the gravity of the situation. If the whole issue is a “myth”, why has Anthony Bryan spent three weeks in immigration removal centres in the last two years? Why did immigration officials and police turn up at his home one Sunday morning last November with a battering ram and plane ticket to Jamaica, the country of his birth, which he has never visited in 52 years?

The proper response to this disgrace is not to say there is ‘no question’ about the Windrush generation’s rights, nor is it to say the crackdown is a ‘myth’. The prime minister, with her long history of anti-immigration policy enforcement, has the most to answer for, and her refusal to address this human tragedy is appalling.

What needs to happen is that the highly onerous burden of proof placed on residents must be changed. At the moment, the Home Office demands proof of residence since 1973, documentation many simply don’t have. The right thing to do is to grant indefinite leave to remain based on proof of arrival pre-1971.

Beyond this, the hostile environment policy must be rolled back, and the Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016 must be  replaced with a more rational, humane and sensible immigration policy. This doesn’t look likely happen while Theresa May is in office. We can only hope for a more liberal successor.

In the meantime, we must ramp up the pressure in support of the Windrush generation, the people who helped to build modern Britain.