Some children of the “Windrush generation”, who moved from the Caribbean to the UK several decades ago, have been stopped from returning to Britain after recent visits to Jamaica, according to the Jamaican prime minister.
Andrew Holness said that while he did not know of anyone in the Windrush generation being deported to Jamaica, some of their children had been unable to return to the UK.
“Not first generation Windrush, but their children . . . a few cases have been brought to my attention, not directly, not seeking my help directly,” he said. “Many of those persons would have had to get attorneys to sort out their issues and I know at least one of them would have successfully returned to the UK.”
Mr Holness welcomed an apology by Theresa May, the British prime minister, to him and other Caribbean leaders over the harassment of Windrush immigrants, who came to the UK in the late 1940s to the early 1970s but who have recently been asked to prove they have the right to remain in the UK.
Some, who have never obtained official documentation, were denied healthcare and pensions and even threatened with deportation, say campaigners. Mr Holness said the UK had “deprived many of their rights [ . . .] and it has caused human suffering”.
The row over their treatment saw Mrs May meet Caribbean leaders on Tuesday.
“It does leave a bad taste in the sense that Jamaicans were asked to leave Jamaica, invited to come here to work to rebuild the country after world war II, many having served in the army in the war, and are having now to be literally rejected and placed in a stateless category almost,” he said. “It does take away the dignity of the person and it must very well play upon the conscience of the country.”
He called on the UK to ensure “fair and just” compensation to people in the Windrush generation and their children who have been harassed over their legal status. “We are very happy that it has reached a stage where it appears that there will be a fair and reasonable resolution,” he said.
He added that the controversy should not prevent the UK from forging closer economic and trade links with its former colonies in the Commonwealth, pointing out that this would be in Britain’s interests after it leaves the EU next year.
“It is important — as it has been done — that there is an apology and that this stain, the British government acts to correct that,” he said. “But at the same time we cannot allow that to further limit the potential of truly solving the problem.”
“The migration problem is an economic development problem and you are only going to solve that by fairer trade, freer trade, greater investment in areas where we don’t have the investment, sharing technology where we don’t have technology, ensuring energy security and taking a very progressive view on dealing with poverty in countries that are struggling.”
He said Brexit was “an opportunity” for Jamaica, as “Britain will have to focus on new areas and spheres of influence and the Commonwealth would seem to be a logical area”.
The Windrush generation was named after the first ship that brought workers from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in 1948, who were granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK by the 1971 Immigration Act. But since 2012, they have been caught up in the Home Office’s “hostile environment” policies — now renamed “compliant environment” — introduced in Mrs May’s term as home secretary.
Mr Holness called for an investigation into the destruction in 2010 of an archive of old landing slips cataloguing many older arrivals in the UK, including many of the Windrush generation.
“It would seem to me that if public documents have been destroyed, certainly you would want to investigate to see why it has happened, whether or not any laws have been breached and who will be held accountable” he said. “We would certainly want to know if there was any malice in there.”
The Jamaican leader offered the help of his country’s national archives, which he said “has done very well in preserving historical records and whatever we can do we will certainly do for the people in our diaspora”.
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