The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is being asked to take the fight to the British government on behalf of thousands of Caribbean-born Britons who have become victims of Britain’s “hostile environment” policy.
Three civic groups have written a joint letter to CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque stating that regional governments had a duty to seek justice for the so-called Windrush generation, a reference to Caribbean nationals who went to the UK following World War II, at the invitation of the British government, to help rebuild the country.
The decision to write to LaRocque was taken at a meeting on Saturday of the Clement Payne Movement of Barbados, the Caribbean Chapter of the International Network in Defence of Humanity and the Pan African Coalition of Organization.
The “community grounding” at the Clement Payne Cultural Centre on Crumpton Street, The City, was held to discuss what the organizers described as the “systematic and racist infringement of the civil and human rights” of the Windrush generation.
“The participants at the community grounding noted that there are a number of black grassroots activist organizations in the UK that are fighting for justice for the Windrush generation, but it was the unanimous consensus that these organizations are up against a very powerful foe and will require the active solidarity and support of the Caribbean governments and of their collective organization if the fight for justice is to be brought to a successful conclusion,” said social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong, who wrote the April 23 letter on behalf of the civic groups.
Comissiong also told LaRocque CARICOM was obligated to take a collective position in relation the Windrush generation who have been subjected to a “state-orchestrated, racist campaign of unlawful deportations, detentions in custody, denial of medical and other social services and denial of right to gain employment”.
The British home secretary Amber Rudd today pledged that the Windrush generation will be granted British citizenship, telling parliament she recognized the “harrowing” experiences of the Caribbean immigrants and that she was determined to right the wrongs that had taken place.
Rudd said the home office would waive citizenship fees for the Windrush generation and their families and any charges for returning to the UK for those who had retired to their countries of origin after making their lives in Britain.
She also pledged to scrap language and British knowledge tests and bring in speedy financial compensation for those that had suffered loss.
The free citizenship offer will apply not just to the families of Caribbean migrants who went to the UK between 1948 and 1973 but anyone from other Commonwealth nations who settled there over the same period.
“I am personally committed to resolving this situation with urgency and purpose. Of course an apology is just the first step in putting right the wrongs that these people have suffered,” she said.
Because of the prime minister’s “hostile environment” introduced through changes to immigration rules in 2014, the Caribbean immigrants and their families who settled in the UK between 1948 and 1973 have been threatened with deportation, lost their jobs or been denied medical treatment.
Rudd said some of the steps to tackle illegal immigration had “unintended and sometimes devastating” consequences for the Windrush generation, who are in the UK legally but have struggled to get documentation to prove their status.
“They are British in all but legal status and this should never have been allowed to happen,” she said.
Saturday’s meeting of the civic groups heard personal testimonies from a number of Barbadian and other Caribbean nationals who had lived and worked extensively in the UK.
The meeting also recommended that all persons of Caribbean origin in the UK should remain part and parcel of the Pan-Caribbean family and therefore are entitled to the” interest, concern, solidarity and support” of the regional people and governments.