Trouble within the household: UK’s migrant embarrassment undermines Commonwealth reunion

LONDON (Reuters) – As it prepares to go away the European Union, Britain’s makes an attempt to revitalise hyperlinks with former colonies at a lavish summit in London have been overshadowed by outrage over Prime Minister Theresa May’s treatment of Commonwealth migrants.

Leaders and representatives of Caribbean nations attend a gathering with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street in London April 17, 2018. Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool through Reuters

Threats to deport some kin of Caribbean staff who helped rebuild Britain within the a long time after World War Two have soured the temper on the London reunion of the self-styled “Family” – the 53 Commonwealth nations sure collectively by the shared historical past of the now-defunct British Empire.

“It is a matter of denial of the dignity of citizenship, which really cannot be restored,” Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness instructed the Good Morning Britain tv present.

    Speaking alongside May on the Commonwealth assembly, Holness hoped for the “speedy implementation” of the government’s proposals to repair the disaster.

    “It is only fair. It will lead to security, certainly for those who have been affected, and it is the kind of inclusive prosperity for which we stand as Commonwealth peoples,” he mentioned.

The affair has undermined efforts to revive the Commonwealth and promote ‘Global Britain’ – the rebranding train aimed toward constructing commerce partnerships and creating a brand new approach of projecting British ‘soft power’ worldwide because the nation prepares to exit the European Union.

The so-called Windrush era, named after one of many first ships bringing Caribbean residents to Britain, arrived as kids between 1948 and 1971 and a few who can’t produce citizenship documentation are being denied healthcare, prevented from working, and even threatened with deportation.

Barbados excessive commissioner (ambassador) Guy Hewitt instructed the BBC that some “Windrush Kids” have been being handled as unlawful immigrants regardless that that they had gone to high school in Britain and paid their taxes.

The Commonwealth advanced out of the British empire within the mid-20th century, and Queen Elizabeth has been its head since she ascended the throne in 1952. She regards the Commonwealth as the best success of her reign.

Critics say it’s an outdated relic of Britain’s imperial previous and makes an attempt to provide it new life are a determined bid by nostalgic Britons to create an “Empire 2.0” that can cushion the influence of the nation’s exit from the European Union.

Advocates, hundreds of whom assembled from throughout the globe in London to speak about matters like commerce, the setting and girls’s rights, say it’s a lifeline that offers small nations a seat on the desk with bigger states, and has enormous potential to enhance life for its 2.four billion residents.

Despite a gradual drumbeat of discontent over Windrush, Prime Minister May has been caught off-guard by the difficulty and compelled right into a sequence of apologies and admissions.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May hosts a gathering with leaders and representatives of Caribbean nations, at 10 Downing Street in London April 17, 2018. Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool through Reuters

“These people are British, they are part of us,” May instructed parliament on Wednesday. “I want to say sorry to anyone who has had confusion or anxiety felt as a result of this.”

The disaster has forged Britain, and May particularly, in an unsympathetic mild and raised awkward questions on how the aggressive pursuit of decrease immigration sits alongside the will to be an outward-looking global chief.

“This is a ​day of national shame,” mentioned David Lammy, a London-based opposition lawmaker and son of Windrush migrants, who blamed rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Britain over current years. Nationalist rhetoric was broadly deployed by events campaigning for Brexit.

  “If you lay down with dogs, you get fleas, and that is what has happened with the far-right rhetoric in this country.”


Tighter border insurance policies, which have left some migrants and their kids struggling to show their citizenship, are largely a legacy of May’s time as Home Secretary – a job she held for six years earlier than turning into prime minister in 2016.

In 2012 May mentioned: “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.”

As a end result, life for a lot of authorized migrants who had by no means beforehand wanted to show their British heritage has turn into more durable, with a number of the Windrush era sensing a recurrence of the racial discrimination they confronted after they first arrived.

Sally Daghlian, chief government of Praxis Community Projects, says her organisation has supported greater than 120 individuals who arrived from the Caribbean greater than 50 years in the past and have now been wrongly labelled as unlawful immigrants.

In some instances, she mentioned individuals have been refused entry to Britain after going to funerals abroad or denied entry to healthcare, lost jobs, and even been made homeless as a result of they don’t have ample paperwork.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May meets Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness at 10 Downing Street, in London, April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Summers

“Every story that I have come across has been appalling, it is difficult to quantify the human misery,” she mentioned.

“We have created a Britain where there is great suspicion of anyone who has a migrant background.”

The episode has raised issues about whether or not the Home Office can pretty deal with the claims of EU residents after Brexit, when hundreds of EU residents might want to present they have the best to stay in Britain.

The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, mentioned full ensures on EU residents’ rights have been wanted within the wake of the disaster.

The affair has additionally prompted requires the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd, probably the most pro-EU ministers in May’s cupboard.


As worldwide alliances go, the Commonwealth is a unfastened community linking giant economies like India, inhabitants 1.three billion, with tiny pacific states like Nauru, inhabitants 13,000.

Even inside the household, there may be disagreement concerning the Commonwealth’s path, and Britain’s position inside it: questions have been raised over whether or not the queen’s son and inheritor, Prince Charles, ought to succeed her as the top of the organisation.

Opposition Labour Party chief and royal sceptic Jeremy Corbyn has mentioned it could be time to permit the Commonwealth to resolve its personal head. May’s government mentioned it will foyer for Charles.

“If you decide to give the headship to Charles then you are talking another 10 or 20 years of a kind of embalming fluid,” mentioned Philip Murphy, professor of British and Commonwealth historical past on the School of Advanced Study. “It removes any kind of incentive for it to survive on its own merits.”

For Britain, internet hosting its first Commonwealth Heads of Government assembly for 20 years, the purpose was made clear on the eve of the gathering: commerce. And it could be that the Windrush row is not going to have an effect on such calculations ultimately.

Even although the Commonwealth accounts for lower than 10 % of British exports, in comparison with 44 % which go to the EU, bilateral commerce offers with the likes of India, Canada and Australia are excessive on the government’s precedence checklist.

“As the United Kingdom leaves the European Union we have the opportunity to reinvigorate our Commonwealth partnerships and usher in a new era harnessing the movement of expertise, talent goods and capital between our nations in a way that we have not done for a generation or more,” mentioned commerce minister Liam Fox.

Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Giles Elgood

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