State Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade (MFAFT) Senator Pearnel Charles Jr. is in the UK on a “diaspora trip.” As I am sure you know, the “diaspora” is that large, but often scattered community of people of Jamaican descent living overseas, whatever their citizenship status. There are several Jamaican Diaspora Boards, whom the Jamaican Government hold conferences with, from time to time. Speeches are made. Meetings are held. There is always discussion about the “role of the diaspora.” Perhaps that is for another discussion.
According to two press releases from the Ministry of today’s date, Minister Charles Jr. “revealed that the Ministry has received several cases related to the Windrush immigration crisis. While speaking at the 6th Biennial Jamaican Diaspora UK Conference on Saturday, June 16, the State Minister said, ‘To date thirty (30) cases have been referred to the British High Commission by the Ministry, twenty (20) of which were as a result of the advertisements that were placed in print and on social media. The Ministry is aware that two persons on this list were granted visas to travel to the UK. We continue to closely monitor this situation.’”
The Ministry is trying to sort out the problems of undocumented migrants and is working with the Consular Affairs Department and the Jamaican High Commission in London. It has consulted with the British High Commission in Kingston, the National Organization of Deported Migrants (NODM), founded by Professor Bernard Headley; Open Heart Shelter in Montego Bay and Open Arms Shelter in Kingston, “in order to identify individuals who may have been deported and are eligible for their cases to be reviewed.”
Minister Charles also paid tribute to the Windrush Generation for their “bravery, endurance and tenacity.”
Meanwhile, the new UK Home Secretary Rt. Honourable Sajid Javid has pledged his commitment to “resolving the Windrush crisis” at a meeting with Minister Charles today (June 18). Mr. Javid said the work of the Commonwealth Taskforce will continue and the waiver of fees will continue indefinitely for the Windrush Generation, pre-1973. “Legislation has also been drafted to change the law to introduce the Windrush Settlement Scheme which will streamline the process utilizing a single form,” notes the MFAFT press release.
The Home Secretary also announced plans to establish an annual Windrush Day to be observed on June 22 each year, supported by a grant of up to £500,000 for communities wishing to host special events for the day.
The MFAFT release says the Minister “was appeased [interesting choice of words] by the overall approach being taken by the UK Government,” but that he would “continue to work with the UK authorities in raising further awareness of the situation and in advancing the settlement process.”
Minister Charles, please keep a close eye on all of this.
To their credit, the UK Guardian has maintained a steady focus on the issue. An op-ed today by Kehinde Andrews, an Associate Professor in Sociology at Birmingham City University is headlined A National Windrush Day? Theresa May Has Some Nerve. I have to agree… When the problems for an estimated 5,000 or so Windrush cases are by no means sorted out, this seems little more than tokenism. I can just imagine a meeting among the technocrats: “I know! Let’s have a Windrush Day!” pipes up a bright young PR person.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policy (a term which Home Secretary Javid is reportedly not fond of) reminds me of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” strategy. While small children are crying for their parents and locked in Texan cages, sprawled on the floor under Mylar blankets, the UK Government is dodging and swerving over the Windrush issue (and, of course, the slow-motion disaster that is Brexit), while senior citizens of Caribbean descent suffer financial hardships and mental stress.
Meanwhile, no doubt inspired by Trump/May, the new right-wing government elected in Italy has hit upon the marvelous idea of doing a census of the Roma community (oppressed and persecuted over centuries in Europe). This is eerily reminiscent of Adolf Eichmann’s 1939 census, which helped the Nazis create the Jewish Registry. Last week, the Italian Government turned away a charity ship carrying African refugees.
“Unfortunately we will have to keep the Italian Roma because we can’t expel them,” said Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. What a pity.
And these are so-called “developed countries.” First World.
What kind of world are we living in? As someone tweeted earlier today: “The world is terrible.”
Simply put, Yes. It is.
I’m retreating to the fantasy world of World Cup, for the rest of the week. I feel safer there. At least people hug each other. Complete strangers. People of different nationalities, even.