LONDON • British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday appointed a former banker of South Asian origin as Interior Minister, trying to draw a line under an immigration scandal threatening her authority as she negotiates Brexit.
Mr Sajid Javid, 48, the son of immigrants from Pakistan, replaces Ms Amber Rudd, who quit as Home Secretary on Sunday after acknowledging she had "inadvertently misled" Parliament by denying the government had targets for the deportation of illegal migrants.
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 denied basic rights and in some cases detained and threatened with deportation.
Mr Javid is the first lawmaker from Britain's black, Asian and minority ethnic community to become Home Secretary. His appointment could change the balance of Mrs May's top team in negotiating Britain's departure from the European Union in March next year.
Ms Rudd was one of the most outspokenly pro-European members of Mrs May's Cabinet. Mr Javid was a lukewarm campaigner to remain in the bloc and has said the 2016 referendum result meant "in some ways, we're all Brexiteers now".
"The most urgent task I have is to help those British citizens that came from the Caribbean, the so-called Windrush generation, and make sure that they are all treated with the decency and the fairness that they deserve," Mr Javid told broadcasters.
Ms Amber Rudd was one of the most outspokenly pro-European members of Mrs May's Cabinet. Mr Sajid Javid was a lukewarm campaigner to remain in the bloc and has said the 2016 referendum result meant that "in some ways, we're all Brexiteers now".
He also called on voters gearing up for local elections on Thursday, when the Conservative Party could lose councils in London, to look at the government's attempts to "put things right" and its efforts to "deal with the injustices in society".
The Home Office is known as one of the toughest government departments to lead, charged with immigration, the police and security at a time of public spending cuts, Islamist attacks and Brexit talks.
Mrs May was the longest-serving home secretary in decades, holding the job for six years before becoming Prime Minister, and some opposition figures accuse her of drawing up overly harsh immigration policies as she promised a "hostile environment" for illegal immigrants.
Ms Rudd, 54, lasted only 22 months, becoming the fourth minister Mrs May has lost to scandals in the last six months.
Facing questions over the Windrush scandal, Ms Rudd told lawmakers last week that Britain did not have targets for the removal of immigrants, but was forced to clarify her words after leaked documents showed targets did exist.
Ms Rudd wrote in her resignation letter that she "should have been aware" of the targets, adding that Britons "want people who have a right to live here to be treated fairly and humanely, which has sometimes not been the case" - a criticism of her own ministry, and possibly of Mrs May.
"The Windrush scandal has rightly shone a light on an important issue for our country," Ms Rudd wrote.