Govt sorry for treat­ment of Caribbean im­mi­grants

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

LON­DON: The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment apol­o­gised on Mon­day for its “ap­palling” treat­ment of some im­mi­grants from the Caribbean, as re­ports of law-abid­ing res­i­dents be­ing threat­ened with de­por­ta­tion over­shad­owed a Lon­don meet­ing of lead­ers from the 53-na­tion Com­mon­wealth.

Britain wants to use this week’s sum­mit of the al­liance of the UK and its for­mer colonies to help Britain bol­ster trade and diplo­matic ties around the world af­ter it leaves the Euro­pean Union. But anger over what many see as the UK’s shabby treat­ment of res­i­dents of Caribbean ori­gin eclipsed trade top­ics.

Mem­bers of the “Win­drush gen­er­a­tion” — named for the ship Em­pire Win­drush, which brought the first big group of post-war Caribbean im­mi­grants to Britain in 1948 — came from what were then Bri­tish colonies or newly in­de­pen­dent states. Those who ar­rived be­fore 1971 had an au­to­matic right to set­tle in the UK.

But some from that gen­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially those who ar­rived as chil­dren on their par­ents’ pass­ports, say they have been de­nied med­i­cal treat­ment or threat­ened with de­por­ta­tion be­cause they can’t pro­duce pa­pers to prove their sta­tus.

The Guardian news­pa­per has re­ported on the mis­treat­ment of peo­ple such as for­mer House of Com­mons cook Paulette Wil­son, who moved to Britain at age 10. She was sent to an im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­tre last year af­ter fail­ing to con­vince au­thor­i­ties she had the right to re­main in Britain.

David Lammy, a law­maker with the op­po­si­tion Labour Party, de­manded an­swers from the gov­ern­ment on Mon­day, call­ing it “a day of na­tional shame.”

Home Sec­re­tary Amber Rudd said she was set­ting up a task force to sort out the Caribbean im­mi­grants’ pa­per­work sim­ply and for free, and promised that no one would be de­ported.

“We have seen the in­di­vid­ual sto­ries, and they have been, some of them, ter­ri­ble to hear, and that is why I have acted,” Ms Rudd said.

“Frankly, some of the ways they have been treated has been wrong, has been ap­palling and I am sorry,” she said.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s of­fice said she would meet with her Caribbean coun­ter­parts at the Com­mon­wealth sum­mit to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion.

The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has taken an in­creas­ingly tough line on im­mi­gra­tion, which has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally over the last 10 or 15 years, largely as re­sult of peo­ple mov­ing to the UK from other EU coun­tries.

A de­sire to con­trol im­mi­gra­tion was a ma­jor fac­tor for many vot­ers who sup­ported the 2016 ref­er­en­dum for Britain to leave the EU.

Crit­ics say the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has, by de­sign or ac­ci­den­tally, taken a hos­tile at­ti­tude to the thou­sands of peo­ple who have made Britain their home.

Bar­ba­dos High Com­mis­sioner Guy He­witt told the BBC on Mon­day that he felt Britain was telling peo­ple from the Caribbean, “You are no longer wel­come.”

Some 140 UK law­mak­ers signed a let­ter urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to find an “im­me­di­ate and ef­fec­tive” re­sponse to con­cerns from Com­mon­wealth-born res­i­dents over their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

The Com­mon­wealth links 2.4 bil­lion peo­ple on five con­ti­nents, from coun­tries such as vast In­dia and wealthy Aus­tralia to small is­land states like Tonga and Van­u­atu.

It es­pouses good gov­er­nance, eco­nomic growth and hu­man rights, but is seen by some as a ves­tige of the Bri­tish em­pire with an un­cer­tain mis­sion in the 21st cen­tury.

Queen El­iz­a­beth II, who will for­mally open the Com­mon­wealth Heads of Gov­ern­ment meet­ing at Buck­ing­ham Palace on Thurs­day, has done much to unite the group. She has vis­ited nearly ev­ery Com­mon­wealth na­tion, of­ten mul­ti­ple times, dur­ing her 66-year reign.

The 91-year-old has given up long-dis­tance travel, so this is likely to be the last Com­mon­wealth sum­mit over which she pre­sides.

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