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‘We want to hold people account over Windrush’

UNIFIED: Clockwise, from main, Rev Dr Jaddoo introduced Gloria and Derek Fletcher to the capacity crowd; Rev Dr Jaddoo, Jamaican High Commissioner Seth George Ramocan and Rachel Okello on the conference dais

THE COUNCIL house in Birmingham City Centre played host to the first National Conference held by the locally-based Windrush Movement (UK), which marked the first anniversary of the scandal.

Seeking to help the affected chart the way forward, it also coincided with the recent launch of the Windrush Compensation Scheme, through which those affected could seek recompense for the direct and indirect financial and emotional damage the scandal has caused.

The mood of the gathering, which at times reflected the disappointment, anger and concern experienced by many and those affected, also touched on the plight of those who have been deported from the UK and returned to the Caribbean over the last year.

While the sometimes heated question and answer session proceeded, members of the Windrush taskforce and the compensation team were taking part in one-to-one sessions with concerned people.

“The suffering endured by many cannot be comprehended,” says Reverend Dr Desmond Jaddoo, chair and co-founder of the Movement, prior to the event. The meeting room, which was quickly filled to capacity by concerned citizens from across the country, reflected this notion.

PASSIVE

The stated purpose of the meeting was “to update the community, along with ensuring that assistance is available to those requiring it”. The status of the guest speakers reflected the Movement’s lofty ambitions.

The distinguished personnel on the panel included Seth George Ramocan, the Jamaican High Commissioner, who came in for the harshest comments on the night, as the representation of the Jamaican government.

It was seen by certain members of the audience as being passive, if not complicit, in accepting those deported from the UK without raising concerns deemed loud enough by some.

Joining him were Martin Forde QC, independent advisor on the compensation scheme; Rev Clive Foster of the Nottinghamshire Windrush support group; Rachel Okello, a city solicitor who specialises in immigration and human rights and advisor to the Movement, and Daniel Hobbs, head of the compensation scheme.

While Ramocan pointed out that there were weaknesses within the Scheme, his typically lengthy answers to questions and comments put forward caused some hostility among some members of the audience, which swelled to well over 100 not long after it began.

However, some of the questions put to him were perhaps more suited to those on the panel with legal expertise and direct Scheme experience. Concerns expressed on the night included the length of the 17-page application form and the unavailability of legal aid to assist those seeking to make claims.

Other issues raised included the prevalence of misinformation about the Scheme, presence of scrupulous lawyers keen to represent would-be claimants, which Forde warned attendees against hiring, while emphasising that there are 14 separate routes to make a claim.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the night was the introduction to Gloria Fletcher, whose physical and mental health, and that of her husband Derek, were badly affected when her status was called into question after she applied for a passport for the first time four years ago to prove her right to work in the UK.

Gloria arrived in the UK from St Kitts on her mother’s passport in 1971. With the support of the Movement, she was given her right to remain in the UK within an hour, using the same papers she had originally presented when her status was first called into question.

INFORMED

Speaking after the conference, Rev Dr Jaddoo said: “The conference was, as I anticipated, one that people would engage in and leave being able to make informed decisions.”

Tasked with tackling the inequality and social justice issues that affects black communities in the UK, the Movement has been described by its leaders as “a pressure group whose purpose is to hold authorities to account both in the UK and Caribbean”.

The Movement will be putting on further events, including on May 23 at Nottingham’s Pilgrim Church, with dates pending for Derby’s West Indian Centre and a venue in Coventry.

It will also be launching a surgery in newly commissioned offices in Inshops and at Birmingham’s Perry Brr.

The Windrush Compensation Scheme comprises a reported £200 million fund, to which applications can be made by or on behalf of those who have settlement or the ‘right of abode’ and arrived to live in the UK before January 1, 1973, from any Commonwealth country or before December 31, 1988, from any country.

Claims can be made by those who have suffered a loss, who have not been able to demonstrate their right to live, work claim benefits or access services in the UK, or have been served with immigration action.

Claims can also be made by their children and grandchildren, also those who are overseas and by an estate if the person affected has passed away.

For more, visit http://gov.uk/guidance/windrush-compen-sation-scheme. Enquiries can also be made to the Windrush Movement by email to thewmuk@yahoo.com

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