Caribbean governments, led by Jamaica, are beginning to press the British government to address compensation and general assistance issues to Caribbean nationals who have been inhumanely deported or denied re-entry into the United Kingdom because of drastic changes of immigration polices over the decades.
Representation is being made on behalf of a group of thousands of elderly regional citizens who, while in the prime of their lives, were invited to settle in Britain after 1948 to help rebuild the country after World War II. Boats such as the cruise ship the Empire Windrush were sent to Caribbean ports to collect people willing to settle in Britain after the war. They were dubbed the so-called Windrush Generation.
Eager for a change of life from underdeveloped colonies during the colonial era, thousands took up the offer and headed to London and other British ports, taking up jobs as nurses, bus drivers, postal workers and others. Aware that they were nationals of British colonies, many assumed they had been granted automatic legal stays in Britain, but as many would find out in the coming years, changes in the Immigration Act had placed them in the illegal citizens category.
The result is that some were rounded up from homes and jobs in Britain after living there for decades and deported. Others who went back to Jamaica and other countries for weddings, family functions or funerals were surprised to have been denied boarding at regional airports as they attempted to fly back home to Britain after brief Caribbean stays.
But the Jamaica foreign ministry, for example, says it will take advantage of a few systems London has put in place to assist those treated unjustly over the decades and ensure these victims are properly compensated. Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith said several have died without ever being able to return to the U.K., without any help from British authorities and bereft of any compensation whatsoever.
Senator Pearnel Charles Jr., the state minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, said compensation is a must for those affected.
He stated to a university forum recently, “The government will continue to actively advocate for resolution to this Windrush immigration crisis, including the matter of just and adequate compensation to victims. This crisis has presented an opportunity for Jamaica and our Caribbean friends and partners to unite. It is also a cause for us to bolster the influence of our diaspora in the U.K., while also simultaneously providing the well-needed support to those who are vulnerable. We intend, therefore, to utilize our resources both locally and in the United Kingdom to encourage more persons who have been affected to come forward, seek assistance and to make legitimate claims.”
British Home Office figures for now are showing that approximately 170 Jamaicans were either incorrectly deported or detained by immigration officials as common criminals, despite working for decades, earning pensions and qualifying for health care or other forms of state assistance. Britain now wants Jamaican officials to help look for some of them. Local media have reported that some are too ashamed to surface because many had been given the deportee treatment by people in communities where they live.
The situation is heart rending said Johnson-Smith as Jamaican officials search for survivors on the island.
She added, “We have received reports that they are dead. We have to find the families.”
She reported that ministry staff undertake daily visits to communities in search of those deported incorrectly by London.
“There are no mobile numbers on the national registry,” the U.K. Guardian quoted her as saying. “You might end up in a community, asking if people know the people who live beside them. It can be quite painstaking. Our team is on it every day.”