Wed | May 22, 2019

Editorial | Put wind to Windrush

Published:Sunday | September 9, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Kamina Johnson Smith, the foreign minister, will no doubt beg to differ, but few people will say that Jamaica's Government is doing enough to raise awareness, domestically, about the scandal of the Windrush Generation, thereby pressing the case of those citizens who may have been victimised in the saga.

First, Jamaica's Constitution recognises dual citizenship, and in that regard provides a special recognition for those whose shared nationality with Commonwealth countries - like Britain. They can be members of parliament and, therefore, sit in the Cabinet, although they can't be the prime minister. Our Government, therefore, need not feel that any such move would be a compromise to sovereignty.

Further, this newspaper's perception of the Jamaican nation, which has been broadly embraced by the Holness administration, is one that transcends our insular borders, to encompass anywhere Jamaicans live and work in significant numbers - the idea of Greater Jamaica. Being citizens of those countries strengthen their capacity to influence domestic policy to the advantage, hopefully, of Jamaica.

Therein lies part of our concern about the Windrush crisis and Jamaica's response to it. The Windrush Generation, of course, refers to those Caribbean migrants, and their children, who went to Britain in the 1940s, '50s and '60s and contributed greatly to the UK's post-war recovery. It is now, though, a larger metaphor for racism, bad treatment and injustice. Many of this group, including large numbers from Jamaica, went to England on the assumption that they were British citizens. Many of them, though, either through ignorance or an assumption that they need not do anything more, failed to 'regularise' themselves when Britain changed its immigration laws in the 1970s.




Over the years, many have been deported, excluded from social services because they couldn't prove British citizenship and, in some cases, were prevented from returning to the UK after travelling abroad. But the scale of the problem and, in a sense, the institutional racism memorialised by the scandal have only emerged this year, in the face of dogged reporting by the Guardian newspaper, which revealed how the policies of Theresa May, when she was home minister, exacerbated the exclusions and maltreatment.

Indeed, several persons who ought to have had legitimate status in the UK were stranded for years in Jamaica. One of them, Vernon Van Riel, returned to the UK last week after 13 years.

Asif Ahmad, Britain's high commissioner to Jamaica, at the outer band, based on the official figures, so far, places the number of Windrush victims at perhaps 12,000. The fact, though, is that no one, as yet, has a handle on the real breadth of this crisis.

Last week, Martin Forde, the QC drafted by the British government to help design compensation for the Windrush victims, confessed that he hadn't a clear grasp of who's entitled. First, there was no clear definition of who falls into the Windrush classification, including whether, as he told the Guardian, "the children and grandchildren of Commonwealth citizens, who were living in the UK after 1973, and who themselves had experienced immigration difficulties".

We believe that group has legitimate claims. Indeed, many young people, who lived in the UK in for many years, having gone as British citizens, but, having come to Jamaica in the 1970s without the requisite documentation, found themselves shut out of Britain.

Our Government should be articulating to the British government all the potential aspects of this matter, as well as talking loudly, and often, to victimised British Jamaicans about their right of redress and how it might be obtained.

On the eve of the Commonwealth summit, Prime Minister Andrew Holness promised Mrs May that he'd maintain Windrush in his sight. We want to hear him doing it. So, too, he must mandate Minister Johnson Smith.