Dr Marcia Burrowes Interview
Dr. Marcia Burrowes is Lecturer in Cultural Studies, founder of the Cultural Studies course and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Culture, Creative and Performing Arts at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus in Barbados.
[Speaking about the term ‘Windrush’] Yeah but that’s another difficult one because having been made, it’s latched on to and it’s been acted upon, it’s been given power. It has a day. The 22nd of June, I wouldn’t be in London for the day. That was unheard of. I would not have even considered in the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s and 1990s. Even the 2000s. It was the 2017/18 moment. And as a scholar, you know that moments are made to be. Stuart Hall would say it’s a process of becoming. And therefore, I don’t know. It would be interesting to hear what scholarship says about this because Windush now has its own currency, it has its understanding, it probably has its dictionary entrance. And it has gained more meaning since 2018. It’s come to refer perhaps to what we call the first generation who might themselves just call themselves West Indian. It’s unfortunately come to echo continuing battles of identity with sometimes a seemingly hostile environment in England. It means so many things.
Dr Marcia Burrowes Interview Transcript
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DR MARCIA BURROWES INTERVIEW
EHdK: Dr Eve Hayes de Kalaf (Interviewer)
MB: Dr Marcia Burrowes (Respondent)
28th February 2023. The University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados.
EHdK 0:01 I’m with Dr Marcia Burrowes who is Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Culture, Creative and Performing Arts here at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview today.
MB 0:18 Thank you for asking me.
EHdK 0:20 You have a really fascinating experience not only with the UK and with migration to the UK but also for many years you worked on oral history projects. And the aim of today is to learn a bit more about you and your career and then maybe talk through some of the broader linkages that are [related to] some of the broader themes of this project.
MB 00:53 That’s fine. Fantastic. You’re actually joining me at the end of an extremely long journey. It’s an end that should have come about since maybe 2010, 2014. You’re in university, you know these things take on a life of their own. But we are…I have submitted the final edits to the publisher, and we will have the book this year. I’m not at liberty to give you the title yet but it’s a book that comes out of the actual project. And it does what perhaps those in 2018 found themselves confronted with…we were extremely lucky. A number of Barbadians had returned home and then this construct of return, as I’ve argued in a much earlier article, it’s kind of like a zoning beacon. They had completed their work within the UK: 30 years, 40 years, 35 years.
EHdK 02:02 What were some of the main motivations for Bajans returning to Barbados?
MB 02:09 Apparently, many of them had the idea that that’s where they will be once they finish their work. Once they’ve “returned”. Once they could afford it. It is a mixture of reasons. I am still racking my brains around that. And some persons do return home. And I think the moment in the 1990s coincides with, I believe, the Building Society pay off. And so, a lump sum was gathered. And it seems to have been that tilt for some. We’ve got the lump sum, let’s go to Barbados.
EHdK 02:49 Tell me about the recent project. Where did that emerge from?
MB 02:52 They asked for it. And many persons have published on this. And this book we’re bringing up will say what stunned those who came back to Barbados or anywhere in the Caribbean is the hostile environment they found themselves in.
EHdK 03:08 Sorry, just to confirm. The returnees themselves was saying that there was a need for the project?
MB 03:14 What they realised over a period of time is that no one knew who they were anymore. When they left in the 1950s, in the early 1960s, 1970s. Those generations knew them because those generations would receive remittances. And those are the days of great underdevelopment, before independence, very much deep colonial rule. And very, very poor circumstances for many persons in the Caribbean. And receiving that proverbial five-pound note. Which when translated into Barbados dollars was $24.80. The number of things you could do with that was amazing. No one had that kind of money really within the working class and poor. So, you could buy school shoes for your children. You could buy dresses for your…you could buy books for your children. You could pay off the shopkeeper.
EHdK 04:14 And how were those remittances sent?
MB 04:20 By post. People would literally line up and go to the Post Office, put it in an envelope, write a letter, as well. And I say that to my 21st century students and they haven’t a clue what I’m talking about. We no longer write letters. They have no idea what an air mail post is. Probably never received a postal order in their life because the world has changed swiftly in the 21st century. But in the 20th century, you looked forward to these letters arriving. Sometimes persons sent actual monies, which is scary, but apparently was the practice of the day and only the extremely greedy postman might steal it. Or sometimes persons sent postal orders. They bought the postal order. And you’ll see when the book comes out…I’m going to do what these great authors do and not tell you too much! But you could see from the interviews, individuals worked out how much they would have to do to achieve the money. So, there was a lady, for example, who came up with a total of 30…pressing 36 shirts a day, nine shirts, the monies from nine shirts would go towards the remittance. And she worked that out and then she worked out what portion would go for her rent, what portion for food, etc. But a really large portion was for remittances. And then either twice weekly or once monthly she would go to the Post Office and she would have written a letter to her family and she would include the postal order and send it.
EHdK 06:00 And how many people did you reach out to?
MB 06:03 I’ve reached out to many hundreds by now. That’s a very good question [when did it begin?]. I wasn’t there. It’s a complicated beginning that I’m trying to work out. It possibly began in England, but it definitely flourished in Barbados. The Anglican church is involved not because they’re the Christian church but it just happens to be the church that many individuals came back to. I am not sure why the Anglican church is involved but the Anglican church was there in the beginning when I was there. They’re no longer there but they do keep an eye…well, not really recently but the migrants themselves found themselves in situations…and I’ve written about this, where they were accused of taking the luxury of the land, stealing the lamb, the fat of the lamb, etc. Generations. Those early generations that knew of the five-pound note and received it and knew that paid for their school shoes. That generation had become adults and had had another generation and another generation. We did not speak of it. We speak of it now, but we did not speak of it then. And, over time, the stories kind of fell off the table. So, these individuals show up in person 30, 40 years later. They’re looking for home and home looks back at them and says, “And you are? What do you mean you grew up here? You have a strange accent. Go back to England. Tomatoes are cheaper in England. Go back to England and buy the tomatoes.” Little things, little anecdotal things that, as a researcher, you know, those indicate fissures and tensions within the society.
EHdK 07:54 What year did people start returning?
MB 07:57 We did… I don’t want to say but I think the work of Mary Chamberlain. Lennox Honychurch. They did quite a bit of returning. Of looking at the returning. The Race Relations Act in the 1970s probably helped to spur some of it. Some people returned immediately but very slim. They literally took one whiff of the English winter and tried to get back home where it’s warmer! So, there are various portions of returners I’m sure your project discovers. But what we zeroed in on was this 1990s move. And I really think it’s connected to the building society.
EHdK 08:45 Brilliant. Tell me more about that.
MB 08:47 I’m still trying to work it out! But, from the English…and I do not know. There are many persons I wish we’d ask more questions of. Some of our respondents have passed. There are a few who are alive and so I need to tie that down. Because my belief is that there was always a notion to return, and monies were being collected to return. For those who stayed and made families, the children became an important factor that they see through their education and they complete that. So, there are other factors that influenced the decision to return. I remember, as we discussed, I studied at the University of Warwick and I remember speaking with a sprightly lady was probably in her 60s. And I did ask, “Are you going back?” and she says, I have my grandchildren. So, that becomes another factor because as a grandmother coming from the Caribbean, she felt special responsibilities for guiding the grandchildren. And that impacted her decision of whether to return or not. And I do not think she returned even though in our heart she wanted to. She was a grandmother and stayed to do her grandmotherly duties.
EHdK 10:02 For this project, you specifically looked at people returning to Barbados?
MB 10:05 We captured them here and that makes it unusual. What would you sociologists call it? Snowballing? I speak to you, you tell me of your friend, your friend tells me of your friend, your friend tells me…Yeah, so I have no problem with the snowballing technique. In small societies it works. We also held townhalls and so the word spread quickly. We did not have a scientific per se approach. But we happen to cover most parties on the island.
EHdK 10:42 Did you record…Where were most people coming from? Was it the same regions within the UK or was it from all over?
MB 10:51 We captured quite an expanse. But, again, we didn’t set out to. But on looking at it now, now that the publication is coming out, we captured quite an expanse. But then there were areas we didn’t touch on at all. So, if I were to do the project again, and we’ve always said we want to do a volume two, I would then think of areas of societies, communities that are still in Britain. Communities that have continued to return. They’re constant stroller communities. It’s a matter of fact. Now we just discussed this. So, the children of the first generation, as in those born in England, many of them are here and some of them are here now because their parents are elderly. And they’ve returned…they’ve come to Barbados, the home of their parents. Their geographic home is England. But they find themselves in Barbados because, again, they’re following through that familial connection of seeing the parents through. So, there are cycles and cycles. I’d love to unravel it. So, if you’d asked me these questions in the beginning, I would have given you a straight answer with a full stop. No, I say, I don’t know. It’s continuous. It’s cyclical. And the concept of return, which was questioned around 2010, I stand by that. The concept of transnational, which is a scholar’s convenient way of trying to be inclusive, has been rejected by several of my…as far as they’re concerned, they’re Barbadian. They just happened to be out for a few years. But they’re back. They’re Barbados. So, migration studies will say they’re transnational. But they will say, “No. I’m Barbadian.”
EHdK 12:41 And how open were people to being recorded for the project?
MB 12:45 Very. I think the snowballing effect helped. Also, some…and this is with general…the Caribbean communities, as I’m sure you discovered, it was an opportunity to speak of the experience that they had not been granted before or allowed themselves to before.
EHdK 13:08 What were some of the main themes that were coming through?
MB 13:12 Should I say, read my book? I’ll bring it up to London for you [laughs]. Oh, my goodness. There’s so many themes and there’s so many eras. If you’ve been in England for 30, 40 years unfortunately things repeat themselves. If anything, the 2018 Windrush was a shock because it repeated itself again!
EHdK 13:38 Well, tell me about that. Where were you when you found out about the scandal?
MB 13:43 I was in London, and I had come up before COVID. I began the practice of being in London during the summers to make contacts. Some persons who returned to Barbados subsequently returned to England on a six-month basis for their medicals. Their pensions are all in England and they have access to the UK health care system. So, a practice developed of going to England, doing your health care and coming back. Some persons who returned to England have been unable to return to Barbados because they’re elderly and they’re in their 80s. Health issues kick in. That’s the book I need to write. The question of return and home. And even if you want to, it may or may not be possible. So, I was in London for 2018. I’d heard the build-up. And I caught a story about a Jamaican lady who was stuck in some sort of depo on her way to being exported. And I thought, they can’t be serious. And then the accusation of not having their documents. I laughed and said, “No, that’s not a good reason. Someone needs to tell the British government that these people keep their documents. And so does the British Archives. And so does the British Museum!” And so on and so on. And at first, I thought it was just one and then stories kept coming. Another one and another one and another one. That was there in 2018. And everyone was talking about it. Everyone in London. In Barbados, I think it’s interesting because that’s another question, the extent to which we were aware. But the communities who had returned were probably very aware. Whether the Barbadians who were not in direct contact or Caribbean people who are not in direct contact with those communities were fully aware, I do not know.
EHdK 15:44 When you were carrying out your oral history interviews and speaking with different people, did the theme of documentation come up?
MB 15:50 Yeah. It came up in…So, what can you have? Anything, we were interested in anything. If you have a handkerchief. If you have a photo. And it’s amazing what people keep. In my office, there is a suitcase that was taken from Barbados in 1954. It’s what was then called a grip. It’s not big. It’s not fancy. As a matter of fact, it’s made of cardboard. And apparently, the gentleman who owned it put car parts in it when he returned. But, my goodness, its value is priceless now. He’d kept a suitcase. His mother worked on a plantation all of her life. And when his, when the possibility of travelling to England came up, this is in the 1950s, like the majority of migrants, he would not have had the funds. The migrants would have gone to the government and taken loans, etc. And his mother said, I will pay for you. And she had been on that plantation labour all her life so very little money for her life, but she had saved and saved and saved. And one of the things, she bought his ticket which was unheard of for many migrants. And she bought him his suitcase on his suits. Apparently, he kept his suits until just before he returned to Barbados. But he kept the suitcase. And he looked after her until she died. So, he returned and was able to see her through in her latter stage of life. And he kept the suitcase and put car parts in the suitcase. And we caught up with him. And I said that, what have you kept? He said, “You know, I have the suitcase.” And my mouth fell. And we had one of many exhibitions. We had an exhibition, three exhibitions in 2013. One was that the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC). There was a diaspora conference in Barbados and they allowed us to…we were focused on the UK. They were mostly focused on the US. But we were able to display some of the findings. The British High Commissioner came to the exhibition and requested that we mount the exhibition again in his residence. The Caribbean British High Commissioners were meeting in Barbados and he wanted the exhibition to be the focal point. I believe it was 2013. A very interesting High Commissioner whose name I think was White [nb the UK High Commissioner to Barbados in 2013 was Paul Brummell CMG]. And I kept finding him standing at the exhibition. They said to me, the British High Commissioner is here. I kind of made it up as I went along. I am a theatre person, I’m an actor. I’m an artist. I’m what they call now a creative. And so, I had to find ways and means of communicating to the average public person what had happened 50 years before. And we went for…I’m sure you’ve done big placards with information, quotations, you name it. But the visible became important. So, I did check the costume room in the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination. And we got dresses that seemed to be the 1950s. A lady saw me dressing a mannequin and she came back with a cancan. Who keeps a cancan in 2013? And we put the cancan on the mannequin and suddenly, there were the 1950s! We put gloves on it…So, we created a departure moment. A well-dressed lady and a well-dressed gentleman. And then we put the suitcase…the grip from 1954 there and someone brought a trunk which again is an artefact. And we put those up, etc, etc. It drew a lot of attention. And the day the British High Commissioner came, I was told he was there. I passed and saw him there and thought, I’ll catch up with him later. I passed again and saw him there and he stayed. And he read every single sign. And he read through all the notes. And some of the migrants were there and he had discussions with them. And then we received this official invitation at the British High Commissioner’s house. And so, I wrote to them and said, we of the 21st century understand email. These generations understand post. Please send them letters. Embossed letters. The British High Commissioner of Barbados invites you to…amazing. And the book has…Bishop Wood came. I suppose the British High Commission reached out to their mailing list. The British High Commissioners [meeting] of the Caribbean [was the purpose]. They were all in. And so that became for him…He had studied the exhibition so thoroughly, he thought this was most appropriate. And so be remote to the exhibition at the British High Commission. The British High Commission spoke, the Head of Department of History spoke. We had a number of visitors but we also had persons we hadn’t interviewed. Bishop Wood coming into the room. It was an institution walking into the room! It was absolutely amazing. So, in 2013, 2014, we were flying very high and very strongly. And by then, several of the persons, as one works with projects such as these, may or may not have moved on to other things. I stuck with the project. My co-editor is Mr. Kenneth Walters, he served as Registrar for the University of the West Indies Cape Hill campus and I’m hoping you’re speaking to him because he really should be here. And I believe his article is published in that book you have been able to acquire. And so, we kept the project going. A personal…I was in an accident so I couldn’t continue it for a few years. And once I was able to get back, I continued it again. And so today, I can probably say, yeah, the book’s coming in time for Black History Month. But perhaps by June we should have flyers or something. But what is amazing, because you’re in Barbados, when this began, no one was really interested in it.
EHdK 22:49 In the project itself?
MB 22:51 This was not a topic of discussion. Well, I think…I do remember the book by I think it’s Plaza [Dwaine E. Plaza] and Frances Henry. I think it’s called “The Return” or “Questioning the Return” [the book is called “Return to the Source: The Final Stage of the Caribbean Migration Circuit”] probably nearer to 2010. An American publication. The strength of the book was, so what is return? Because at that time, migration studies was very much into three solid blocks. You leave so that’s the migration. Forced if it’s African enslavement or forced if you happen to be in Africa and Mugabe kicks you out your country like Asian migration. So, there’s a steady period of years. And then there’s a settling where you become a part and parcel of this adopted society. And then there seems to be a cross cultures. A matter of return whether you go back to Italy or Israel or America or wherever. But they started to question, do we understand return now in the 21st century?
EHdK 24:11 And I think it’s quite interesting what you said near the beginning of the interview because you were saying that returnees are very much identified as being Bajan. Whereas I know that there are people from other parts of the Caribbean who when they went to the UK went as British subjects, right?
MB 24:33 It doesn’t contradict itself.
EHdK 24:35 But these identities change as well. It’s not fixed. It’s fluid. It’s not necessarily what your document says or how you’re defined or how a state sees you. These things can all shift and change and contradict each other and be very complex.
MB 24:52 Over time, I think within the British West Indies, the migrants left as British West Indians. Matter of fact, they were issued a passport sometimes within the same day or within another day. Photo was taken, passport was issued and after they were set. So, we’re speaking of working class and poor who would never been able to afford a passport and afford travel. So, they left the British West Indies. And even if you follow some of the constructs of migration in the United States, there are individuals and groups [who] identify as West Indian in the 21st century. Now, in the 21st century perhaps the parlance is Caribbean. But there are generations in America who identify as West Indians. There are generations in England who identify as West Indians as well.
EHdK 25:43 The name Windrush is really associated with the scandal, right? Because when you start looking back and looking at how people talk about their journeys and their experiences, the word Windrush really wasn’t very present.
MB 25:57 You speak of identity creation. I think the Windrush journey speaks to one journey. It speaks to a Northern Caribbean journey by…I always jokingly say, a set of individuals who happened to have the British Film Institute at the dock because there were many ships at that time. And before 1948. And after 1948. And not all went to Tilbury. But for some reason, the BFI was at Tilbury and the BFI in true form captured people coming off the boat. And they commented on the attire. I mean, the guys if you look at those photos…the fellas really worked on their clothing. And so, they step in some of the best sartorial wear you’ll ever see. And ladies and gents…but I agree with you and maybe individuals or maybe your conference will look at that. At what point in time did that cycle spin and say, let’s call it Windrush. And let’s have Windrush be extended to not just the particular of the arrival of a ship from Jamaica but the arrival of many ships across the north and southern Caribbean over several years, over many decades.
EHdK 27:18 It seems to be a narrative or a discourse that overwrites the heterogeneity, right, of what the Caribbean is itself?
MB 27:26 Yeah but that’s another difficult one because having been made, it’s latched on to and it’s been acted upon, it’s been given power. It has a day. The 22nd of June, I wouldn’t be in London for the day. That was unheard of. I would not have even considered in the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s and 1990s. Even the 2000s. It was the 2017/18 moment. And as a scholar, you know that moments are made to be. Stuart Hall would say it’s a process of becoming. And therefore, I don’t know. It would be interesting to hear what scholarship says about this because Windush now has its own currency, it has its understanding, it probably has its dictionary entrance. And it has gained more meaning since 2018. It’s come to refer perhaps to what we call the first generation who might themselves just call themselves West Indian. It’s unfortunately come to echo continuing battles of identity with sometimes a seemingly hostile environment in England. It means so many things.
EHdK 28:43 So tell me. Talk me through your journey to the UK.
MB 28:51 I finished my first degree which was in history and law. I am a creative, as I said. And a few years later, I wanted to do a master’s and I wanted to do a master’s in drama. So, I went to the British High Commission. I took a big book. Again, my students would not understand this because everything’s online now. But one had to take a five-inch folio volume of information and look through it. And by chance, I saw the word Warwick and I applied to Warwick and I was accepted to do the master’s in cultural studies in arts education with an emphasis on theatre and drama and therefore I did come. I had a part scholarship, the Errol Barrow scholarship. I travelled to England in 1992. The Errol Barrow scholarship, he was just promoted in England. He was the first prime minister of the independent country of Barbados. He was recently in the British narrative because he was also a pilot in the Royal Air Force. And I think there was an exhibition last year. Royal Air Force exhibition where he was highlighted as one of the, well, one of the Black, one of the few Black pilots of the Royal Air Force. But attention was brought again to his style and he did continue to fly when he returned to Barbados. As a matter of fact, we are sitting at the University of the West Indies. And the story goes that he literally took the plane up and mapped the university from the air and then came back and negotiated with all the plantation owners saying, I need this, I need this. And Cave Hill was created. So, yes, and so I did tell my very wonderful supervisor if he hears this, Professor Engels, that I was there to do drama and I was returning to Barbados. And by the second semester, I found myself asking questions of identity. And I finally gathered up the wherewithal to go to my professor and he said to me, “Well, I figured that you wanted to do a PhD, but you hadn’t worked it out yet. So, I’ve just been here waiting for you to come.” So, I did return. I was awarded the Commonwealth scholarship and I returned to the University of Warwick. I graduated and then I was awarded a Leverhulme scholarship to be served in the Centre for Caribbean Studies at the University of Warwick and I returned to Warwick again. So, as we said, I was sent to Coventry three times. But the connection with migration is that I, as a young Barbadian student in England, I was aware of Barbadian families in London and they were aware of me. And one of my first connections was the phone would ring and I would hear, “Marcia. come to London. We are cooking rice and peas and this amazing meal,” which was a typical Caribbean meal on a Sunday, and I would take the extremely slow train to London. It took two hours from Coventry which is unheard of now. And I would go into this home and be fed all of these Barbadian Caribbean delights and return to Warwick. Two of those individuals who looked after me in England became two of my respondents and have remained two of my respondents.
EHdK 32:10 So they were two people who returned?
MB 32:13 Yes because they did fulfil the wish. This wish that many persons within Britain have that they were there for a short period of time. So, life continued, children came, work continued, etc. But at some point in time, they’re going back to Jamaica, Saint Kitts, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Grenada, wherever, they were able to fulfil that. And that’s how, in a sense, they got drafted into it. They had a feeling of identities, seeing the restaging of identities within London. I went into houses where I instantly recognised the house and then said to myself, “Well, I’m not in Barbados.” But the occupants had recreated a mini-Caribbean. I think one of the most famous exhibitions was called the Front Room. What the artists did was capture what had happened over and over again. Once migrating to England, they recreate the lived space, and you recognise it and touché to him to create an exhibition because all of us from the Caribbean recognised the front room! We’ve all got front rooms, and that sense of belonging is what they pursued. So, they’re within a space with cold and snow and horrific race relations and problems at work and, gosh, the Teddy Boys, you name it, everything’s around. And then they go into their front room. And it’s a sort of…but yet it’s not home, home, home. I am still between…I don’t know what to call it but it was something to be endured for a period of time. And for some in their minds, the period of time came to an end. And that is the process of returning home.
EHdK 34:13 How did that experience affect you personally?
MB 34:17 I was actually on a Commonwealth scholarship when my funds were up. I came back to Barbados and what I did was introduce Cultural Studies at Cave Hill. So, my PhD is in cultural studies. And the questions that I started to ponder upon, queries I pondered upon, were constructs of identities. Postcolonial moments. Is there ever the postcolonial? Past the post post- as Stuart Hall would say. What happens to young developing nations? Barbados has just taken another giant step and we haven’t yet spoken about it. We are now a republic. I’m really not sure what that means. And I suppose there’s quite a few of the population but we’ve been saluted across the world for our bravery. And, yeah, we still have to talk about that. So, interestingly, one of the questions will be…so the migrants coming home. Many of the migrants will have left before independence. Independence was passed so if they’re now coming now it’s a republic. So, there’s a lot of catching up to do.
EHdK 35:20 Is there anything that they told you that you that you didn’t expect, or that surprised you?
MB 35:26 All of it, all of it. When I began, I began as a novice, I began…I collected information with each interview. They helped to structure the interviews. They said, this is what you need to ask for. We really relied on them and that’s in the book that this is their book, they created it. And that’s when we had that moment when perhaps the IP was absconded. It was not our university’s IP, it was these individuals who had come to us and entrusted us with this task. And then I learnt a lot along the way.
EHdK 36:06 And did you encounter anybody who…have you encountered anybody who has been directly affected by the scandal? I mean, anybody who has either returned to Barbados and haven’t been able to travel back to the UK?
MB 36:24 I am not aware. I’ve read it. I’ve read stories in social media. Because I think all throughout the Caribbean that happened. I think Jamaica was especially given focus. Because there were a number of Jamaican British or British Jamaicans who travelled home for funerals or occasions and then from there they could not return.
EHdK 36:50 And did the issue of documentation come up? Yeah, I think I’ve already asked that question.
MB 36:56 Yes. Again, in the newspapers, I mean, you’re researching on it. So, there were a couple of numerous instances where Barbadians…The practice of if you’re a child, especially in the 1950s, 1960s. A passport was not issued for the child. The child’s name was noted on the adult’s passport. And that seemed to be regulation, British regulations for immigration that was closely followed. So, you travelled with a child into Britain. And the immigration officer noted the child and off you go. 20 years later, or 30 years later, when that child is required to show proof of entry…there might be a slight issue. Has someone kept the passport? But the information should have been recorded. So that’s what perhaps made the scandal more…to repeat the word scandalous. Somewhere that information would have been recorded. And perhaps the government at the time were not aware of that or did not ask.
EHdK 38:04 And also, I think, many of the people affected were not…they were working and focused on their family life and providing for their family. And they hadn’t left the UK. There was no intention really there to leave because they were focusing on that period of their life. I thought what was interesting were the changes that were brought in with Theresa May’s hostile environment. The thing around landlords, then demanding to see people’s passport.
MB 38:42 I was not aware of that. Why would a landlord need to see your passport?
EHdK 38:49 Because this is part of the hostile environment policy which making it as difficult as possible for people who are so-called “illegal” – I don’t like that term at all – but in the country without permission let’s say. Then that’s adding another gatekeeper, basically, to that process. And what’s fascinating about that, I think he’s asking people for passports when people may have never even applied for one. So, the Windrush generation is a very good example of, for example, the children if they’ve never been asked for this in terms of their employment or when they’re accessing the NHS or when they, you know, they might have an ID number to work but they’ve never actually had to go through the process of applying for a passport. So, some of the draconian measures brought in by the UK came down on people such as the Windrush generation because they thought that they…they were there legally, and they thought that they were fine. But then the measures that were targeting immigrants obviously had a knock-on effect and caught these people.
MB 40:06 I was not aware of that. And that is another horrible example.
EHdK 40:14 Well, again, the NHS is another example. It’s asking people for evidence and blocking people’s access to healthcare.
MB 40:22 Is it still going on? I thought that with the intervention of the government, the resignation of Amber Rudd.
EHdK 40:34 I mean, you had the Wendy Williams report. And you’ve also had the Compensation Scheme. But there are a lot of there’s a lot of criticism around the Compensation Scheme and how it’s not fit for purpose and how it hasn’t helped people resolve the issue.
MB 40:58 And then COVID interrupted.
EHdK :01 And also Brexit as well. If you think about what’s been happening with EU migrants and then the demands to see their documentation as well. So, it’s a big thing. And I think even though as Windrush disappears from the headlines and from the front pages, it’s certainly a matter that is continuing.
MB 41:26 I received a call from someone, they said, “Me know you work on Windrush so we have a challenge for you.” A young lady in her 20s had applied on the Windrush regulation post-2018 to come to Britain. Her father, her mother…her grandfather and mother lived in Britain from Barbados and her mother was born in Britain. And she wanted access through lineage and descendant, and she was denied. And so, I said, they said something about the Windrush regulations, I do not know the regulation but that sounds iffy. Because normally, according to immigration laws, you can claim descendant. But something perhaps had interrupted this process and she found herself denied. So, she’s of age. She’s of age to work, etc.
EHdK 42:28 I mean, I can’t comment on individual cases, of course, but another example would be changes to legal aid. So, cutting legal aid so that people who did find themselves either receiving a letter from the Home Office, for example, threatening them with deportation or finding that they were… people were terrified and they didn’t want to share that information with their children. Or embarrassed or confused because they didn’t understand why they were getting letters. So, there’s a lot of issues around trust and a lot of issues around secrecy as well and people not wanting to share. But also, the cutting of legal aid and meaning the people didn’t have that to actually seek legal counsel and find help where they needed it. The other thing that we did find, so I did an interview with a lady called Jennifer Housen who is a lawyer, barrister and legal specialist. She’s qualified both in Jamaica and the UK. And one of the things that she said was that in the UK, I might not be 100% correct on this, but until very recently, people didn’t actually have to be legally qualified to give legal advice which meant that when people were finding they were having problems with their documentation, or finding issues, or were trying to call the Home Office, and nobody would answer or were turning up at a High Commission and not finding the response that they were…not finding any kind of response or information they needed…out of different community groups would appear people who would say they were legally qualified and would give people advice. And we heard of people renouncing, or trying to renounce or thinking that they were renouncing their Jamaican citizenship, for example, and that would help them get their British citizenship. So, all sorts of misinformation and problems and advice that people were given that just wasn’t helpful. And, of course, because the Home Office have this hostile…well, the UK Government have this hostile environment approach. It really did create a hostile situation whereby there was fear, it was fear-mongering. But the hostile environment was pushed through from 2010 onwards.
MB 45:13 I remember. I was there in 2019. And when you speak of legal aid, there was particularly a lawyer who was of Barbadian heritage but his name kept coming up in discussions and he was travelling across the UK. I’ve never met him, but he would have sessions in Leeds and sessions in Yorkshire and sessions in Manchester and his name kept coming up. And it was in that matter of, partly, perhaps the documents were of great length. And so, as the person tried to fill out form 1,2,3,4,5, the actual form itself seemed even created to make persons hesitant.
EHdK 45:59 That’s the added cruelty of the Compensation Scheme again is to re-traumatise people. To put someone again through a process which essentially you can argue they shouldn’t be in that process at all. Because if you’re in the UK with a perfect legitimate right to be here, or to be there, I should say, as we’re in Barbados. Then being made to jump through these extra hoops and being treated as a second-class citizen and being treated as a threat to the state is a very appalling way for government to treat three people who essentially rebuilt Britain, or that’s how the narrative goes. So, it’s a very complex picture. I just wanted to ask if there’s anything else that you wanted to talk about before we up the interview.
MB 47:05 Let me say, I wish my co-editor was here. And if you do have the time, you could speak to him, and I’ll see if I can sit with him. That’s Mr Kenneth Walters because I’m literally about to submit this once, finally, to the publisher. I feel restricted about the amount I can disclose. But it has been an interesting journey. And it’s a continuous one. Sometimes I’m in London and I see persons that I thought were in Barbados, but they’ve migrated to London in the 2000s, post-2010, post-2018. Migration is a cyclical, but I think Britain…I thought Britain had the best chance of perhaps all the countries in Europe to really address the concerns of the populace. And perhaps lead the discussions of migration issues within Europe itself especially with persons who are of a former empire. Empire is now a very bad word but there was a time Britain embraced Empire because you know, there were the Empire where the sun never set. And I think Britain has the opportunity to perhaps address these issues and go forward with them. And as for the Windrush celebrations, I’ll be there in June. Oh, my, I’m curious to see how they’re evolving.
EHdK 48:34 Okay. Well, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate you coming to talk to me today.
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