author:Paul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
The British government’s £200-million Windrush compensation scheme that seeks to give redress to Jamaican and other migrants is inadequate and falls way below expectation, says Professor Verene Shepherd, one of the Caribbean’s foremost minds on reparatory justice.
Britain’s true debt to Caribbean people, said Shepherd, should be computed to incorporate loss suffered, injustice, and the pain which, if monetised, would be several million more pounds. She said, further, that the Windrush Generation was an apt model of exploitation.
“This compensation package … needs to be sustainable, it needs to be ongoing for a long time and I am saying that people must not accept a one-time payment,” Shepherd told The Gleaner in an interview yesterday.
“This Windrush Generation, they firmly believed that they were going to help mother England. They firmly believe that they were British. The victims must be looked after by the British state, and I don’t mean living off some programme for the poor, but in a structured way of repayment for all that they have faced in Britain because of this policy,” she said.
The Windrush Generation refers to immigrants who were invited to join the British reconstruction efforts after the Second World War, arriving in the United Kingdom between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries including Jamaica. The name ‘Windrush’ is derived from the ship MV Empire Windrush, which took some 500 Jamaicans from Kingston to Tilbury, Essex, in June 1948.
London announced a £200-million compensation scheme for up to 15,000 migrants, although there is scope for that amount to increase and cover more claimants.
“These people firmly believe that having helped in the war effort and the post-war reconstruction, that they would have a stake in the in British society. But they had a rude awakening because they got a colonial education and they really believed that they were British,” said Shepherd.
She said that it appeared that the victims did not understand the history of Britain which, over time, extracted and used “black people’s labour, using our intelligence, our skills, our intellect to develop their country then say, ‘Get out, you’re no longer needed.’
“And we see it in the deportations and we have seen what happened to that generation. Anybody born before 1962 should have British citizenship. There’s no question about that. They should have,” Shepherd noted.
The historian stated that there have been major developments in the UK where several universities have started research into their role in the slave trade and how it was facilitated. She said that such schools are now owning up to their past, citing Glasgow University, which has studied its role and is now seeking to make amends through reparatory justice.
“Cambridge University has only recently announced that it has put together a research group to study its link to enslavement. The Edinburgh University is also doing a similar thing. In fact, there is a small group of people who are also looking at the Pennants Estate in Clarendon, which was linked to Wales, who are to try to do community reparation,” Shepherd said.