Windrush generation migrants may have been handed a lifeline after it emerged records of their arrival in the UK should be in the National Archives.
Many of those who arrived from the West Indies from the late 1940s onwards lack these records, having never applied for British citizenship or passports, and are now struggling to prove they living in the UK legally.
But it has emerged details of their arrival in Britain should have been recorded on passenger lists drawn up for the Board of Trade between 1878 and 1960, which are now in the National Archives in Kew, south west London.
The cases of some of those who moved from the Caribbean to the UK to help rebuild Britain after the war have left the Government facing accusations of incompetence and callousness.
A number of them say they have faced the threat of deportation after decades of living in Britain.
The Prime Minister was forced this week to say the UK will “do whatever it takes” to resolve the current immigration row.
She added that the Government was considering compensating affected migrants.
The Windrush generation was named after the ship – HMT Empire Windrush – that brought one of the first groups of West Indians to Britain, as the country sought to rebuild after the Second World War.
Anyone who entered the UK before 1973 is legally entitled to live in Britain, but many of the Windrush generation have recently suffered issues as a result of tightened UK immigration requirements introduced when Mrs May was home secretary.
The arrivals records – which are filed in nearly 1,500 boxes at the National Archives – are expected to include those who came to Britain from the Caribbean by ship.
The decision to destroy thousands of landing card slips that should have been used to record the arrival of Windrush-era migrants was made by the Home Office in 2009.
In some cases people who came to the UK more than 50 years ago have had difficulties finding work, getting NHS care, accessing benefits, or trying to secure housing, as they do not have the correct documentation to prove they are entitled to live in the UK.
The number of confirmed cases being investigated by the Home Office is now understood to be 286, with eight people who have contacted the hotline being given permanent status.
In a speech to Commonwealth leaders earlier this week, Mrs May said: “The UK will do whatever it takes, including where appropriate payment of compensation, to resolve the anxieties and problems which some of the Windrush generation have suffered.
“These people are British, they are part of us, they helped to build Britain and we are all the stronger for their contributions.”
Hundreds gathered to show their solidarity with the Windrush generation at Windrush Square in Brixton, south London, on Friday evening.