View Full Version : 'I'll never trust the English again'

23-05-2018, 15:52
As the 70th anniversary of the ship’s arrival nears, relations between the UK and its former colony are fraying, with the extent of the scandal’s human damage proving difficult to measure

Seventy years ago on Thursday, the Empire Windrush sailed imperiously into Jamaica’s capital, greeted by throngs of spectators. Among them were musicians and boxers, craftsmen and clerks, all chasing dreams of a better life in the mother country.

The 70th anniversary should have been a moment of national pride on both sides of the Atlantic. Instead in Jamaica there is deepening resentment over the treatment of those who left for Britain, amid the spiralling consequences of what has become known as the Windrush crisis.

“I will never trust the English again,” said Melvin Collins, a 72-year-old former Midlands youth worker, who has been stranded in Montego Bay since his passport was revoked without explanation in 2015. He, like many others, is desperately seeking answers from the British government.

From Kingston to Negril, families recall villages being decimated by the long exodus to Britain. Others recount the racism they faced on arrival. Those who worked for years to rebuild Britain from the ashes of war feel the sharpest betrayal.

The Jamaican government has contacted some Windrush victims in the past week, as it scrambles to remedy cases where people have been wrongly expelled from Britain. Yet, four weeks on from a government minister’s pledge to have all cases resolved within a fortnight, there is little official indication about the true scale of the problem on either side of the Atlantic.

There is a famous song by the reggae star Buju Banton, himself a deportee, about the shame attached to those who return to Jamaica penniless.

The stigma is most keenly felt by the older generation who would include Windrush-era migrants who arrived in Britain before 1973 and have been deported since 2002.

Deportees – who are mostly from the US, Britain and Canada – would feel too ashamed to ask friends or relatives for help in their ancestral villages so they often ended up homeless, usually disappearing into the chaotic human slipstreams of Kingston or Montego Bay.

This is what happened to Ken Morgan, whose British passport was confiscated by immigration officers when he visited Jamaica for a family funeral 25 years ago. The 68-year-old former English teacher, from Walthamstow, was destitute and isolated. Yet shame stopped him returning to Clarendon, the coastal parish where his family lived, and instead he stayed in temporary accommodation close to the British high commission, a fortress-like building set behind three-metre-high walls covered with spikes and barbed wire and a 24-hours security checkpoint.