Friday 21 September, 2018

Caribbean immigrants no longer welcome in UK?

(Image: AP: A rainforest design is projected onto Buckingham Palace in London on 15 April 2018 as part of the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy project ahead of the Commonwealth summit this week)

(Image: AP: A rainforest design is projected onto Buckingham Palace in London on 15 April 2018 as part of the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy project ahead of the Commonwealth summit this week)

A simmering dispute over Britain's treatment of people who arrived from the Caribbean as children decades ago has erupted just as the country prepares to host leaders from the 53-nation Commonwealth.

Britain had wanted to use this week's summit in London of the alliance of the UK and its former colonies to help bolster its trade and diplomatic ties around the world ahead of Brexit. But trade topics are being overshadowed by anger over what some in the Commonwealth see as the UK's shabby treatment of residents of Caribbean origin.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's office said on Monday that she would meet her Caribbean counterparts in London for the Commonwealth summit to discuss the situation of long-term UK residents who say they have been threatened with deportation to their countries of birth.

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 and had an automatic right to settle in the UK.

But some from that generation, now aging residents in Britain, say that in recent months they have been denied medical treatment or threatened with deportation because they can't produce papers to prove it.

The Guardian newspaper has highlighted several cases involving people who arrived in the UK as young children or teenagers from Jamaica or Barbados. Many have children and grandchildren in the UK and have worked for decades for UK employers.

Some have lost jobs or even their homes, or spent time in immigration detention centres, after being told they had no right to be in the UK. Others have had to spend thousands of pounds on lawyers to try and prove their legal status, the newspaper reports.

'No longer welcome'

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 who voted in 2016 for Britain to leave the bloc.

Critics say the British government has, by design or accident, 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 have signed a letter urging the government to find an "immediate and effective" response to concerns from Commonwealth-born residents over their immigration status.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said on Monday the government must "do a better job" to put people's minds at ease.

"People should not be concerned about this - they have the right to stay and we should be reassuring them of that," Mordaunt told the BBC.

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