It would be a crying shame!

J'can diplomat urges Windrush victims to apply for compensation

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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VICTIMS of the United Kingdom's Windrush scandal and their families are being urged to take full advantage of the compensation mechanism that is being offered by the British Government, or risk having the hardships foisted upon them in 2018 not being taken seriously.

Jamaica's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom George Ramocan, who was a panellist Monday at a roundtable session at the 8th biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference in downtown Kingston, called on victims and their families to step forward.

“It would be a crying shame upon the Windrush generation if the funds are earmarked for compensation [and] at the end of the two-year window you find that it's only $30 million or $40 million taken up. It would make a mockery of all of us, because it would mean that 'oh' there wasn't really a problem. There is a big job on our hands to ensure that we ensure that the persons who are entitled to these compensation take steps to get it,” Ramocan stated.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, had announced the 200 million compensation scheme in April.

Ramocan pointed out that already there are complaints about the challenging application process. “Those things have to be discussed; is it that individuals need help? Is it that we are going to have to be more active? These are things that we have to talk about as a community. It can actually create a good or bad impression on our community, how we handle this,” he said.

Attorney at Bow Law Chambers in the United Kingdom, Simone Bowman, who provided a comprehensive explanation of the genesis of the Windrush scandal, also stressed that it is critical that those affected take advantage of the opportunity for compensation for the devastation to their lives.

She stressed, too, that Commonwealth citizens had been invited to move to Britain to help resolve the post-World War ll labour shortage and help to rebuild that country. She argued that the UK Government had failed in its duty of care to those who had lived, worked, and contributed to the British economy for decades.

Workers from Commonwealth territories such as Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago arrived on the MV Empire Windrush passenger liner in June 1948. According to the BBC, the influx ended with the 1971 Immigration Act, when Commonwealth citizens who were already living in Britain were given indefinite leave to remain.

“They were invited, to work, to sweep the streets that were paved with gold – that's the impression that was given. One part of the impact of the Windrush scandal is that there was a reduction of the legal status of citizens to illegal immigrants, instead of preserving and protecting their citizenship rights,” Bowman stated.

She pointed out that the hostile environment created for immigrant citizens, and culminating in the Windrush scandal in 2018, had been long in the making, facilitated by a series of laws beginning in the 1940s that had eroded the rights of ordinary citizens who should rightfully call the UK their home.

She pointed to the devastating situation faced by thousands of the Windrush generation, including job losses, loss of medical benefits, homelessness, denial of access to welfare benefits, and education, being subjected to deportation, and the resultant emotional anguish.

People eligible for compensation include those from a Commonwealth country who arrived in the UK before January 1973 Commonwealth citizens who settled in the UK before January 1970; a child of a Commonwealth citizen who settled before January 1973, who was born in the UK or arrived in the UK before age 18; as well as individuals of any nationality who settled in the UK before December 31, 1988.

Compensation is also being offered to children and grandchildren of Commonwealth citizens in certain circumstances; the estates of those who are now deceased but who would have otherwise been eligible to claim compensation; and close family members of eligible claimants where there has been a significant impact on their life or where there is evidence of certain direct financial costs.

The roundtable Monday examined the impact if the Windrush immigration crisis and compensation scheme, and the implications of Brexit - Britain's exit from the European Union.

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