Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith has defended the Government’s handling of the Windrush Generation scandal following sharp criticism from the public.
It was suggested that the Government’s cavalier approach in its response to the scandal was a betrayal of the people and ran counter to Andrew Holness administration’s oft-stated defence of the rights of Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora.
Responding to last Sunday’s Gleaner editorial, Johnson Smith detailed the efforts made by the prime minister to have Britain use all its resources to address the scandal.
“My ministry has been seized of and has remained fully proactive on this matter,” said the foreign affairs minister, noting that Jamaica’s High Commissioner in London, along with the other members of the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) caucus, had, over time, consistently petitioned the British government to respond to the situation at the highest level.
The Windrush Generation refers to those Caribbean migrants who went to Britain from the 1940s to the early 1970s.
Johnson Smith said that on the occasion Holness visited London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, he met with British Prime Minister Theresa May in April and he “spoke frankly about the Windrush Generation issue, urging [the] urgent action by May’s Government.
“Speaking on behalf of his CARICOM colleagues, Prime Minister Holness stressed the importance of outlining clear procedural steps that would ensure that the rights of the Caribbean migrants are restored as well as the critical importance of the payment of compensation to affected persons,” Johnson Smith said in a letter to the editor.
“As was widely reported in the British media, the prime minister remained fully engaged on the matter as a leading voice on the issue during his stay in London,” she added.
Potential Windrush victims were being identified as far back as April through the assistance of the Consular Affairs Department of the foreign affairs ministry.
In addition, Johnson Smith noted that the Jamaican High Commission in London was “similarly engaged in advising and guiding our nationals to the Windrush Task Force to pursue their claims to British citizenship and compensation”.
“In our efforts to identify persons affected, we ran advertisements in Jamaica in the two main daily newspapers, on our website, and on social media platforms. This process resulted in a list of 35 individuals, who were each interviewed and referred to the British High Commission,” Johnson Smith said.
She said that Jamaica also assisted the British High Commission in identifying contact information, including next of kin for several persons, with the aid of the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency and the Registrar General’s Department.
According to Johnson Smith, the Government’s intervention resulted in three individuals having been issued with entry clearance for the UK. Another four applications for entry clearance are being considered, while seven persons were invited to submit entry-clearance applications.