Jamaican PM Andrew Holness tells Kilburn church: Windrush deportation threats and service cuts will be corrected
- Credit: Archant
The prime minister of Jamaica told hundreds at a packed-out Kilburn church on Friday he had been personally assured of the future of Windrush immigrants in the UK by Theresa May.
Andrew Holness moved to reassure the Jamaican diaspora community that the British prime minister had given him “her word” that deportation threats and service cuts to people originally from the Caribbean would be corrected.
“What has happened to the Windrush generation and their children is unfair and inconsistent with the values espoused by the United Kingdom,” he told the Ruach City Church in Kilburn High Road. It came three days after his meeting at Downing Street with Mrs May during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018.
Thousands came from across the UK to attend the meeting, joined by famous faces like Jamaican comedy legend Oliver Samuels and Brent Central MP Dawn Butler.
Many queued for up to two hours to get in to the event, but no one was turned away.
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As Fiona Tape, 31, who had travelled from Hounslow told the Brent & Kilburn Times: “It’s not often your prime minister lets you engage in a two-way conversation about what his government is doing.”
Mr Holness said those who came to Britain as part of the Windrush generation “gave their effort earnestly and sincerely and would rightly have expected the privileges of citizenship”.
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He reassured the audience he would request regular written updates from Mrs May about what is being done to correct the situation.
While some listening told this newspaper they were satisfied by his response, others expressed anger that Mr Holness’s reassurance did not go far enough.
Dr Velma McClymont, the former director of the Caribbean and African Learning and Heritage Centre in London, and a writer on Caribbean history, said Mr Holness should have got something in writing from the British PM.
“The prime minister has come to this country to tell us that all we have is Theresa May’s word?” she said.
“What good is the word of the same person who initiated this racist policy?
“I wanted my prime minister to stand at Downing Street, face the camera with a signed document and say to the Jamaican people: ‘I have secured your rights in this country and they will be enshrined in law.’
“That’s what I wanted here today.”
According to Dr McClymont, the visit was little more than a charm offensive by Mr Holness looking for trade in the wake of Brexit.
“The Caribbean countries were pushed aside when trade with the European Union was enough,” she said.
“Now Britain needs new markets and Jamaica needs investment.
“The first thing he should have done was tell this government that he would not talk about trade, investment or any other issue until the Windrush situation was sorted out.
“This hostile environment policy instigated by Theresa May has contributed to the ongoing pernicious racism that exists in this country.
“The black community is continually forced to put up with alienation and displacement.
“We came here to better our lives. We were invited!
“We have a right to be here. I have had it up to here with this racist treatment.”
Others in the audience shared Dr McClymont’s concerns.
“It’s not a Windrush thing. It’s a black thing,” said another audience member, who asked not to be named.
“Why don’t we see this happening to Australian or New Zealand immigrants?”
While the Windrush situation was foremost in the minds of many there, others were interested to question Mr Holness on their concerns about Jamaican domestic issues.
Topics included crime, violence and the lack of economic opportunity.
Mr Holness acknowledged rising crime was holding people back from returning – but assured Jamaicans that his government was taking steps to bring the problem to heel.
“You always have a home in Jamaica,” he told the audience.
The Jamaican High Commission estimates that up to 800,000 Jamaicans are living in the UK.