Wed | Aug 21, 2019

Editorial | More on Windrush

Published:Monday | September 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM

This newspaper welcomes the seriousness and weight Jamaica's Government says it attaches to the Windrush Generation saga and the effort it has invested in protecting the rights of its citizens victimised by the scandal. Indeed, we are heartened by the alacrity with which Kamina Johnson Smith, the foreign minister, responded to the concerns raised at the perceived lack of intensity with which the administration was pursuing the matter.

But even as we concede to Mrs Johnson Smith the benefit of the doubt, there is at least one issue about which we would wish the Government to be clear and robust. That is, defining who is a Windrush victim.

The Windrush Generation, in this case, is those West Indians, including thousands of Jamaicans and their children, who went to Britain in the aftermath of the Second World War and contributed to the United Kingdom's (UK) post-war development. As colonials, they, rightly, presumed their British citizenship.

When Britain changed its immigration laws, many of this group failed to regularise their status. There was, many felt, no need to. Some may not have understood the law. Others fell through the cracks. In the face of rising anti-immigrant sentiments in the UK, many of these people have become victims: their legitimacy questioned, deprived of benefits, deported, and, in some cases, refused re-entry after travelling abroad.


Offering Compensation


Happily, shamed into acknowledging these sins, the British government is offering compensation to victims. According to Ms Johnson Smith, 35 Jamaicans, presumably people living in Jamaica, were identified through her ministry's efforts and referred to for interviews by the British High Commission. Eighteen of those cases have been, or are on their way to being, resolved.

Of significant note, too, is the minister's declaration of the Government's intention to contribute to the effort, or at least make a submission on the matter, to craft a compensation regime for the victims of the debacle.

"We are currently working with our diaspora in the UK and consulting with the Attorney General's Chambers to make inputs towards a document on the proposed design of the compensation scheme published by the Home Office, for which stakeholders have been invited to make submissions," Mrs Johnson Smith said. "By so doing, we want to ensure that the interests of our affected nationals are protected."

The latter point is critical. But there can't be a mechanism for protecting the interests of victims without being clear about who a victim is. Martin Forde, the QC, was asked by the British government to design a compensation package, and to whom, ultimately, Jamaica will submit its ideas, confessed recently that he had no such definition.

In the narrowest sense, it would be those person who were wrongly ejected from the UK or denied benefits. But Mr Forde questioned whether the definition shouldn't embrace "the children and grandchildren of Commonwealth citizens, who were living in the UK after 1973 and who themselves had experienced immigration difficulties". It certainly should. This newspaper also believes that it should include people who lived in the UK prior to, and after the passage of, the Immigration Act of 1971, at least up to the citizenship eligibility date in 1973 but returned to Jamaica with an assumption of their right to return, and may have been barred when they tried to do so because they lacked UK citizenship or immigration documents.

That is part of the case that we propose that Jamaica make in the submission to which Mrs Johnson Smith alluded. Further, in keeping with her recent statement, she should continue to make periodic statements on the matter as well as maintain the search for Jamaican victims of this failure of policy and absence of empathy that epitomises the Windrush affair.