LONDON (AP) – Black people whose right to life in Britain was illegally challenged by the government marked the anniversary of the law that freed slaves across the British Empire and made a direct link between slavery and the discrimination suffered.
Dozens of activists gathered in Brixton, a black community center in south London, to support international redress efforts for the descendants of enslaved Africans. They also called for laws to compensate legal British residents who were facing deportation in the so-called Windrush scandal.
“The injustice of Windrush would not have happened if the Africans had not been torn from the African continent,” said Kofi Mawuli Klum, organizer of the emancipation day that was liberated in 1834 and 187 by the British Empire.
After the gathering, some activists traveled to Buckingham Palace in the hope of being able to appeal in writing to Queen Elizabeth II to support her call for a “Windrush Act” to redress those injured by the scandal. They were turned away by palace guards who told them to mail their request.
The Windrush generation refers to citizens of the British Empire who traveled to Britain between 1948 and 1973 after the government asked their colonies to send workers to rebuild the country after World War II. It takes its name from the ship that carried the first migrants from the Caribbean in 1948.
The Windrush scandal has rocked the UK since 2018, when many of these long-term legal residents were involved in crackdown on illegal immigration. Thousands lost their jobs, homes and the right to free health care, many because they arrived as children and were unable to produce papers proving their right to live in the UK. Some were arrested and an unknown number were deported to countries they could barely remember.
A victim compensation program is plagued by complaints that it is too slow, too cumbersome and that the payments on offer are not high enough to offset the damage done to the UK government.
The Home Office, the government department responsible for the program, acknowledged a “slow start” in December but said the program had been revised to make it easier and faster.
The agency paid nearly £ 27 million ($ 37 million) in compensation, up from less than £ 3 million at the time the revision was announced in December, it said. Another £ 7.1 million was offered to victims.
The rally came just days after Parliament’s audit committee harshly criticized the government for failing the victims of the scandal.
Opposition Labor Party leader Meg Hillier said it was important to remember the grave errors and that “people’s homes, families and livelihoods have been disrupted and uprooted, with some being driven out of the country”.
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