Natalie Dietrich Jones Interview
Dr Dietrich Jones is a Research Fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus in Kingston, Jamaica. She is an expert in migration, border politics and geographies with a specific focus on intra-Caribbean migration.
[Upon recounting a visit to the British High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica].
So, the colonial architecture. I wouldn’t say opulent but there is a very significant divide between what is on that premises and then what is immediately outside the gate. And even getting into the High Commission is always a little bit dramatic because they have barriers that can go up and down. The barriers have to go all the way down for you to drive over them. Then there is another gate. The gate has to open. So, it’s very protected from the society that it says it’s there to serve. At one point, you used to be able to go to the High Commission to process your visa. That doesn’t happen anymore…So, really, the Jamaican population doesn’t visit the [British] High Commission.
Natalie Dietrich Jones Interview Transcript
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DR NATALIE DIETRICH JONES INTERVIEW
EHdK: Dr Eve Hayes de Kalaf (Interviewer)
NDJ: Dr Natalie Dietrich Jones (Respondent)
14th October 2022. Via Zoom.
EHdK 00:01 I’m here with Dr Natalie Dietrich Jones who is a research fellow at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. Thank you for agreeing to this interview today.
NDJ 00:13 You’re welcome, man. It’s nice to meet you virtually. We should have met face-to-face, but I guess it’s working out as it should have.
EHdK 00:22 Yes, just to say that we were supposed to meet during our trip to Kingston. But Natalie was very busy. So, she’s agreed to a zoom call today. Thank you so much. Firstly, could you talk to me about your research? I know that you have a background in researching migration issues and I’m just very interested in learning more about your work.
NDJ 00:51 I do research on the governance of migration, border politics and geographies. And on vulnerable migrants. Normally, my research focuses on intra-regional migration within the Caribbean especially the Caribbean Community, single markets and economy. So, my PhD research had looked at undocumented intra-regional migration to Barbados. And now, one of my main projects is on Venezuelan migration to the southern Caribbean so Aruba, Curaçao, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago but I also have an interest in the issue of Windrush which is why we’re here today. Moreso scholar activism than research, direct research, but I have done a few small projects related to Windrush since the scandal first emerged. And we can talk more about that.
EHdK 02:01 When did you first hear about the scandal?
NDJ 02:05 An interesting fact is it impacted me before I heard about it. I was studying in the UK, between 2009 and, say, 2012. And I went to a clinic near to where I was living in London at the time. I studied in Manchester but for a while I was living in London. And I normally go to the clinic without any issues. And this time, I went to the clinic and they were like, “You need to bring your passport. We can’t see you unless you have your passport on you.” And I’m like, why? I’ve never been asked this before. Anyway, I went and retrieved the passport. Of course, they flipped to the page with my student visa to check if I’m there lawfully.
EHdK 02:53 Just to confirm, your Jamaican passport?
NDJ 02:56 Right. My Jamaican passport. I’m a Jamaican. To study in the UK, I would have needed a student visa. The student visa allows me a maximum of 40 hours of work and then access to services like health care. And I think it says that on the visa. So, they flipped to the visa page. I didn’t think anything of it and it’s obviously years later when the scandal erupts that I’m connecting the dots and realise that they were trying to check if I was lawfully resident in the UK and thus eligible for access to health services. So, the scandal I think for us came full force maybe like 2016 thereabouts. Things would have accelerated since then. So, I did an exhibition in 2018. I travelled to work for an event in 2019.
EHdK 04:01 Can you tell me what the event was? What was it for? Was it for your research?
NDJ 04:07 So, hearing more and more about Windrush. First, we were getting concerned in the region. And we are seeing the stories, mostly in The Guardian, but like things that come up on BBC and then maybe the local media might carry a story of one of the persons who would have been deported and unable to return.
EHdK 04:28 Where would you have seen news reports? In the local press?
NDJ 04:33 So, there were a few newspaper articles. The one I remember the most is of a boxer who was not able to…It’s an elderly gentleman who in his heyday was a boxer, a very prolific boxer and then he’s deported to Jamaica and unable to return [The Guardian journalist Amelia Gentleman talks about this case in her oral history interview]. So, we started seeing a few of these stories in the press about persons who were returned, I would say unlawfully, and then are trying to get the High Commission here, the British High Commission, to assist with their return.
EHdK 05:10 The British High Commission in Kingston? And can I ask then, when you when you first had this experience, this exchange at a healthcare clinic…What was your initial reaction? Did you find it strange or was it a shock or confusion?
NDJ 05:34 It would have been confusion. It wasn’t the first time I was studying in the UK. I would have used health centres before and never been asked to produce my passport. Maybe then they ask you for my student ID but even that I don’t remember having to show my student ID. And I kept asking, why do I need to produce the document and they were saying that I would not be able to be seen. They didn’t explain why, they just said I needed to show the passport in order for the doctor to see me.
EHdK 06:16 This was an experience then because before you weren’t asked for this documentation, is that correct?
NDJ 06:20 No, I had never been asked so as far as I recall, the hostile environment policy was introduced in 2010 [it was introduced in 2012 although proposed earlier]. I was there from 2009. This would have happened in 2011 or 2012. So, it’s only in retrospect and reflecting because after the event, I kind of put it in the back of my mind. I was like, okay, I’m assuming they want to check that I have access to the health centre and that I’m not undocumented because that’s my area of research. So, I can understand why they’re asking me for it but having not been asked before it, that whole experience was just kind of strange. So, it was in the back of my head, and it wasn’t until I started hearing about the experiences of the Windrush victims who were asked to, you know, prove their status in the UK that it started to make sense what had happened to me.
EHdK 07:19 And how would you say that your knowledge of the Windrush scandal…how does that relate or compare to the research that you’re…that you just told me about in the beginning of the interview about intra-island migration within the Caribbean?
NDJ 07:35 So, there are parallels in the sense of if you’re undocumented, the state…you’re very vulnerable and the state can use different means to exclude you from society. That’s all my research mainly focused on. Exclusion. Exclusion from the labour market, exclusion from health care and other social services like education and then they can also deport you once they find you and detain you. So, there are those parallels. The difference is that the persons who were affected by Windrush would have been mostly elderly persons who would have travelled to the UK in the post-Second World War period and who basically have lived their entire adult lives in the UK supporting the development of critical services like the NHS, like the transport services. And thinking because they had in their passports leave to remain that they were lawfully in the UK. I’ll come back to that in a second…that they are lawfully in the UK. The list of migrants that I typically work with, they travel to destinations in the Caribbean and they have, based on the regulations of our treaty, they have up to six months to stay. If they wish to work, they would have to get a work permit or they would need to prove that they fall within one of the 10 categories of skilled nationals and they would need to get that skill accredited before they can work. So, when I lived in Barbados, for example, I got a skill certificate saying I can live and work in Barbados and then I got a stamp in my passport. So, the time periods are different. The reasons people fall into undocumentedness are different. And then also I would say the response of the UK government because, coming to what I said earlier, there was documentation proving that these individuals had the right to remain in the UK. And those documentation had been destroyed and no administration has accepted responsibility for that. They’ve all said it was the other person that like, whoever, we burned it, but you approve that it be burned or something. Whatever their reasons were. So, their right to remain. There is no evidence of that so with the individuals in the Caribbean, it is a little bit more clear whether you are documented or undocumented.
EHdK 10:45 I would actually argue that there’s one fundamental difference between the groups of people that you’re researching in the Caribbean and people affected by the Windrush scandal which is that those affected by the Windrush scandal were British citizens. They were recognised by the British state as not being migrants but, in fact, being British. And I think that’s a fundamental aspect of this issue that is somehow or oftentimes wrapped up within an immigration discourse.
NDJ 11:24 Right. So, they were invited often by recruitment agencies to work in the UK having come from colonies in the Caribbean that were governed by the British. They would have been British citizens so they would have landed in the UK as citizens. So that documentation that I referred to earlier, they would have had UK passports. It would have said something like Colony of Britain or whatever [Citizen of the UK and Colonies, CUKC]. They would have had a UK passport, and they would have been given the right to remain on the basis that they were British citizens. One, there’s an asterisk beside that, though, based on the conversations that I’ve had which is that there was, even before the hostile environment policy, I believe, rumblings about the citizenship claims of persons of Caribbean/African/Indian descent.
EHdK 12:28 What do you know about that history? Has that fed into your research at all?
NDJ 12:33 What I know is that…this is based on a discussion with an academic who, I would need her permission to pass on her details, but what she has shared is based on her experience as a former diplomat that they had heard these rumblings. They were encouraging Caribbean nationals to go and get, you know, documentation like a passport or something because even though they were UK nationals, a lot of them never held a UK passport. And some of them may have held Jamaican passports. And so, for the ones…some persons travelled to Jamaica or Barbados on the Jamaican passport and it’s when they’re going to return that the issues come up about them not being…
EHdK 13:25 Where do these issues arise?
NDJ 13:29 At the airport.
EHdK 13:31 And who are the decision-makers then making that decision to block people from taking the plane?
NDJ 13:36 So, this is one of the parallels again in terms of the research areas. Border officials, whether immigration officials, so persons working at the airport, or persons in the offices who make decisions, they are the ones who have a lot of control. So, they’re not policymakers. They enforce the policy. And between immigration officials but also even airline employees, someone will come because their first port of call is going to be at the desk to check-in, right? This is before they get through to security and so on. They arrive at the airport, they go to the desk and it’s an airline employee who looks at their passport and makes a determination that they are not eligible to return on the basis of their passport, whatever documentation they have. So, this I find a little bit problematic but it’s just how the system is structured. And in the case of the Windrush generation because they did not have a UK passport or a passport that says indefinite leave to remain, that is where a lot of the issues arose for those who travelled on their own and then weren’t able to return.
EHdK 15:01 But you’ve already mentioned a number of different people then that were intervening beyond the state to effectively police immigration control. So, we’ve already mentioned about a person, the receptionist at the health clinic, people who work for the airline, airport employees. Who else would you say are beyond the state really but are still serving that function of…?
NDJ 15:32 Reading the stories of the Windrush victims, of persons affected by the hostile environment policy, landlords could make a determination. So, you would be renting a place and then all of a sudden, oh, you can’t stay here anymore unless you can prove that you have the right to remain. Your employer, who you’ve been paying NIS [national insurance], and everything else before they were paying your salary. And now, all of a sudden, we need to check that you have indefinite leave to remain. And if you can’t, you can’t be employed. I mean, there was a story about a woman who was a chef at the Houses of Parliament. How can somebody that’s been working at the Houses of Parliament for however many years now all of a sudden fall into undocumentedness?
EHdK 16:28 In addition to that, indefinite leave to remain is as a status given to migrants. It’s not a status given to people who were recognised by the British state as being citizens. So, again, it’s a difficult scenario because you’ve got this tension over people who, for all rights and purposes, believe or see themselves as either living in the UK – I’m not a great fan of the word legitimately – but having the right to live in the UK. And then people who are finding that the system itself is working against them effectively because, as you say, these are people who didn’t necessarily need a passport or travel but with changes to the system, they were increasingly finding demands placed upon them to provide evidence of who they were.
NDJ 17:28 Right, and those changes…I find the UK citizenship regulations to be a little bit complicated and slightly racialised if you look at the impact on Afro-Caribbean migrants in particular because there have been a lot of changes to legislation that impact that population in particular. And there is another dimension of changes in policy that does not discuss as significantly as Windrush. So, they changed the rules – I can’t remember which regulation it is – for persons who are born in overseas territories whose fathers basically held claim to UK citizenship and would be able to pass on that citizenship to their children. They had made a couple changes. One of which is that, I think, the parents had to be married for the father to pass on citizenship. And then there was another change and that has affected persons born in overseas territories who might otherwise have claimed UK citizenship no longer being able to claim that citizenship. That was a more recent change. I would have to send that one to you via email because I’m not remembering off the top of my head.
EHdK 18:59 What we’re building with this project is a very complex picture of citizenship reform and immigration reform since the 1960s. And before, really, but this is certainly not something that other scholars haven’t been highlighting for many decades. But the intention to keep Britain white. Yeah? To use a workforce that would help build the UK after the Second World War. That would help, you know, revitalise the economy and work in essential services. But behind the paradox of that is the underlining desire, basically, for the British government and British politicians to keep Britain white. I’m really interested…you told me then that you became a bit more actively involved then in the Windrush scandal during your time in the UK. How did that come about?
NDJ 20:06 Um, so I did a few things because I did want to do a project on digital activism and the Windrush scandal. So, it’s still there in my background and I will hopefully get to it at some point. So, I had a trip to the UK, and I had tried to arrange some interviews with persons who were impacted by Windrush or involved in advocacy in some way. And I did get a few of those interviews done.
EHdK 20:38 Who specifically were the people, if that’s okay to disclose? Who were the people you spoke to as part of that?
NDJ 20:46 I think I can disclose one but not the other. So, I spoke with Amelia Gentleman. I had been in contact with Patrick Vernon over email and I had a very interesting experience which I mentioned just before we started where I had wanted to meet with him in person. And he was like, well today’s not the best day because we’re going to do this march on the Home Office but if you want to come, you can come [to that]. I had no idea where it was going. I think I may have passed the Home Office once before.
EHdK 21:23 Okay. Just quickly, could you explain to people who Amelia Gentleman is and who Patrick Vernon is and what their role has been in the activism around the scandal?
NDJ 21:38 Amelia Gentleman is The Guardian journalist who basically “broke” the Windrush scandal. A lot of the stories that she wrote highlighted the challenges that persons were experiencing and basically put a magnifying glass on this issue. And then Patrick Vernon is a Jamaican-descended person whose parents would have travelled to the UK. So, he’s British and very much involved in the advocacy around victims’ rights and so on. So, I had wanted to meet with Mr Vernon. He’s actually done a lot of work on Windrush. I believe he was involved as a curator for a Windrush gallery or something. And that’s how I had come on to his name because I was interested in doing an exhibition and when I was searching, I found his name.
EHdK 22:39 And what year was this?
NDJ 22:43 This was 2019 when I travelled.
EHdK 22:47 Did you manage to speak with both Amelia Gentleman and Patrick Vernon?
NDJ 22:50 Right. So, I spoke with Ms Gentleman. I visited The Guardian and we had a conversation. And then I couldn’t meet with Mr Vernon in the way that I wanted but he invited me to attend this protest and I was like, okay. A little bit nervous because I wasn’t sure how police were going to be responding to this. But I turned up at the Home Office. It was a very tense but peaceful protest, if you will. This was in 2019. So, they were gathered in front of the Home Office with some placards. Persons, I think, they may have had a few of their adult children but it was mostly victims affected by the hostile environment policy that were there. The media was there. So, they spoke to the media group. We may have been carried on Sky News, I believe. Sky News was there. So, it went on TV and then we marched from the Home Office to Downing Street and we had a small protest outside of Downing Street as well. And then after we left Downing Street, we went off home. And we had a meal. And it was really interesting because these are normal people who want to live their lives and feel restricted and undervalued for what they’ve done. And they were, even though they were upset, they were still able to, you know, come together and enjoy.
EHdK 24:34 What was the main topic of conversation? Were these people who had been directly affected by the scandal itself? Were they people who had family and friends who had been affected? Or were there also people who had just, you know, heard about the impact of the scandal and wanted to protest?
NDJ 24:54 There was a politician there from one of the bars in the UK. There was a well-known…I don’t want to say too much because…there was a well-known person there. He would not be affected directly but he would certainly know people. He has gotten an award and so on for his activism in his specific area of work. And then there were the victims. So, I think I can say because she’s been in the press a lot. So, Glenda [Caesar]. She was there and then there were a few others there. And so, as I said, the conversation was a mixture of what was going to happen next in terms of next steps, in terms of activism and so on. But then it was just also, they were having a meal, and they were talking. They were friends, you could see, they know each other. And they just want to be supporting each other.
EHdK 25:55 Was it possibly Glenda Caesar? Okay, wonderful. What came of that event then for you? What did you take away from being involved in not just the research side but also having those conversations with people who were so closely linked to, or affected by, these policies?
NDJ 26:24 I’m hoping I’m reflecting it the way that they saw it, but I was a little bit…I was excited to be there. It’s my first time in any kind of protest ever. And seeing that protests of that nature is necessary in order to [get] outcomes that you would want. So, outcomes in this sense would mean they are now having conversations around compensation for persons who have been affected by Windrush because there was a Compensation Scheme designed by the government in order to get persons…So, they were talking about how long it’s been taking for claims to be processed and all that type of information that is being requested and why would they need all of this…they have all this information already. And why is it taking so long? And then like a frustration and almost a fear because, if I’m remembering correctly, persons were concerned that they would pass before, you know, they wouldn’t be getting their claims because they knew all persons were quite elderly, you know, who were waiting on their claims. They had lost their job, persons have been thrown out their flats. So, a kind of affair that that wouldn’t necessarily be getting any claims settled before, you know, and everything…
EHdK 27:51 You mentioned – and, of course, don’t feel like you have to name names – but you mentioned that you spoke to a diplomat who said that they had had rumblings of, you know, this happening. Do you remember what timeframe that was?
NDJ 28:03 I think that might have been in the 1990s but I don’t want to say like definitively but it was definitely before the hostile environment policy was implemented.
EHdK 28:15 Did you talk about the role of the High Commission at all? So, for example, the Jamaican High Commission? Were they present at the protests? What impression did people have of their involvement?
NDJ 28:32 I’ve spoken to the High Commission. I’m trying to remember if it was on the same trip. I spoke to them before I got to the UK. And then after I arrived in the UK in 2019, I visited the High Commission again and I met with High Commissioner Ramocan. I met with High Commissioner Ramocan and that visit to the UK was a little bit different from before because the first interaction was for an interview related to the prison deals that the UK have proposed to Jamaica. And so there was overlap in that discussion about reparations and Windrush and how everything ties together in terms of the UK policy approach to Jamaica.
EHdK 29:30 Could you elaborate more about that?
NDJ 29:38 Okay, so the UK prime minister, I think, it would have been Blair at the time.
EHdK 29:52 I think it was David Cameron if I’m not mistaken [this was at a later date].
NDJ 29:55 Sorry, Cameron. David Cameron [nb Cameron was involved later, NDJ was correct in referring to Tony Blair] Circa 2005, 2006, I think. And one of the elements of the development approach that the UK proposed for Jamaica was to build a prison that would house returned Jamaican nationals from the UK. And it was met with a lot of scepticism in Jamaica because we felt that the intervention was only because the UK wanted to return these individuals. They would have been individuals convicted mostly for drug offences but maybe other types of violent crime. And we thought that it was unfair to us to make a proposal that hinged on the return of these individuals. There was a lot of discussion about the cost benefit analysis, if you will, about whether the prison would work. And in the end, the deal was rejected.
EHdK 31:04 Who specifically rejected the deal?
NDJ 31:08 There was a change in administration. When Cameron came, it was one administration. And then shortly after there was an election and the administration that came in said, it is not financially feasible. That was one of the reasons they put forward to accept the deal. Because even though the UK said they would finance the prison, it was parked. Financing. And Jamaica did not have the funds in order to develop the prison but there’s a lot of backstory to this. I don’t actually know…
EHdK 31:46 So just for a bit of clarity, that was around the time of Portia Simpson-Miller [2006-2007, 2012-2016], is that correct? And then she was replaced by [Orette] Bruce Golding [2007-2011].
NDJ 31:56 Right.
EHdK 31:58 I’m not sure if I’ve got the timeline correct there.
NDJ 32:01 Is this 2005 that you’re seeing? 2006. So, um, I was saying that our main prison in Jamaica that’s in Kingston was built by the British. There are some persons who suggest that it was built to house runaway slaves.
EHdK 32:24 What year are we talking about?
NDJ 32:29 Late 19th century maybe if I’m remembering the dates correctly. There’s a lot of complex things.
EHdK 32:48 I think the thing to take away is that there’s obviously a strong colonial trauma there that’s been left by the Brits and the criminalisation of Jamaicans, the building of prisons, the treating of people…Well, I mean, from enslaved persons all the way until modern day. The British government in that and British diplomatic representatives have been very much a part of that. So, I think the suggestion or the proposal to build a prison, it carries with that a lot of historical baggage and controversy specifically because of what that represents for people.
NDJ 33:36 Exactly. And so, persons were saying, “Don’t give us a prison. Give us reparations. Give us schools. Don’t give us a prison, give us things that will actually assist with our development as a small island developing state.”
EHdK 33:54 Some people like Verene Shepherd and people like Hilary Beckles, of course, but specifically Verene I would say, she’s been very clear about the close connection between, for example, the Windrush scandal itself, and the reparations debate, specifically because it’s another example of harm. And the potential for harm upon a group of people, specifically people of colour.
NDJ 34:21 Right, which is what I was just going to say because when it came back to Windrush, one of the main things that the High Commissioners and other diplomats would have demanded was an apology for Windrush and I would dare say an apology for slavery because one of the points…there’s a Ten-Point Reparations Plan…and one of the points in the plan is an apology for what the British have done in terms of the trauma that you mentioned to the region. So, when Windrush came up, this was kind of like another slap. It’s like, okay, you need to do something about this. And you need to apologise to our people for the harm that you’ve done. And so, a lot of the advocacy at the time by the diplomats concentrated on this apology. And initially, Theresa May had said she wouldn’t apologise but then eventually she had to apologise. And then steps were taken.
EHdK 35:30 It led to the resignation of Amber Rudd as well because of her direct involvement in the scandal. I was really interested in the reaction of people in Jamaica and in the broader Caribbean to the scandal. I know you said there were newspaper reports. I think you were quoting the reports that I’ve seen as well which came out in The Gleaner. But what was the general feeling at that time when the scandal erupted? But also, maybe informal conversations that people have had around the scandal. Does it resonate with everyday Jamaicans? Is it something that they would immediately think of when they talk about the UK?
NDJ 36:20 I will give a personal story and then I will circle back a bit to the question. So, around the time that all of this is happening…I have mixed feelings about this in terms of reparations. I have benefitted from a scholarship from the UK government when I did my masters. And there is a UK journalist/writer who came to Jamaica to meet with young Jamaicans and to talk about reparations. He published his book. I think it was early this year, or sometime last year. His name is escaping right now. But one of the things that I had mentioned is that talking about reparations is complicated for me because I’ve benefitted from the scholarship and a lot of Jamaicans continue to benefit from things like Chevening, from the Commonwealth Scholarship and so on. But around the time that all of this is happening, I’m invited by the Cambridge Commonwealth Society (Cambridge University Commonwealth Society) to attend the function at the High Commission. And I had a lot of mixed feelings about going. And initially I said I would go. It’s in the Windrush Garden. I would go to the Windrush Garden and wear a t-shirt to protest this thing, so I ended up not going to the event but there’s a thing that they have every year where they celebrate the presence of the UK in Jamaica. And I did go to that.
EHdK 37:52 Where was that, sorry, at the High Commission?
NDJ 37:58 And so I did get some opportunity just to look at the gardens and so on.
EHDK 38:03 The High Commissioner’s residence?
NDJ 38:06 It’s on the grounds of the High Commission. You know, I’m not sure if the High Commissioner resides there but it’s always interesting when I go there the type of feelings that come into my brain. You know what the historical legacy is?
EhdK 38:26 Yeah. And if you describe it, maybe if you describe to the people that are listening, what you can see visibly. It’s green grass everywhere and huge colonial architecture.
NDJ 38:38 Right. So, the colonial architecture. I wouldn’t say opulent but there is a very significant divide between what is on that premises and then what is immediately outside the gate. And even getting into the High Commission is always a little bit dramatic because they have barriers that can go up and down. The barriers have to go all the way down for you to drive over them. Then there is another gate. The gate has to open. So, it’s very protected from the society that it says it’s there to serve. At one point, you used to be able to go to the High Commission to process your visa. That doesn’t happen anymore. It’s been outsourced to some external companies. I think now it’s the IOM that manages it on their behalf before it was a private company. So, really, the Jamaican population doesn’t visit the High Commission.
EHdK 39:42 This is happening across Latin America and the Caribbean. So, there was a clear decision by the British government to outsource documents and it is, I would argue, a huge statement because, as you say, when you enter a High Commission, it’s kind of like a fortress, right? You have to go through advanced security checks, you have to go through multiple kind of guards and gates and all sorts of things. And similarly, that’s what the, you know, the changes to closing down that kind of personal interaction, that opportunity for people to speak to a British representative and explain that if they’re having problems getting a visa or if they’re trying to sort out citizenship issues or they if they have a question…that’s gone, that was removed. Do you think that was strategic? Do you think that was something that was part of this broader hostile environment policy?
NDJ 40:51 I’m not sure but it certainly distinguishes the British High Commission from the other embassies and consulates.
EHdK 40:59 In what way? That’s really important I think to understand.
NDJ 41:04 Well, the US would probably be the exception but the US manages theirs a little bit differently, but you still go to the German Embassy, you still go to the Belgian Embassy, the French Embassy, you go directly for an interview and to drop your documents off. You can’t do that with the British High Commission. And it’s interesting. Those countries, we do have our relationship with them. But in terms of the fact that Britain is our mother country, we were colonised by them, but we can’t have ready access to the High Commission. I think that does say a lot. But just to circle back, I think the question you were asking was what was the mood of the other territories? So, I think there was indignation across the region. But just something to point out that even though we have Caribbean nationals of all…from all countries living in the UK, that it would be certain pockets that would probably be more effective than others. So, you mentioned Saint Kitts, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad.
EHdK 42:15 One example…I mean, Jamaica is a glaring example of where people were overwhelmingly affected. Whereas when you look… I interviewed the former High Commissioner to Belize and it didn’t even resonate there. It’s maybe one case, if any. So, there’s definitely huge differences from island to island in terms of who was impacted.
NDJ 42:42 Even though I would say collectively as a region that was colonised by the British…and Belize is an interesting case in that history. But as a region that was colonised by the British, collective indignation but more in the countries that would have had nationals that were directly affected like Jamaica, and Barbados and so on.
EHdK 43:09 And I remember…I think I’m looking through the archives…I think it was called the Caribbean Advisory Board (CAB) which set up I think during the Blair government and it was headed up by Baroness Scotland, if I remember correctly. And the agenda items on there did not mention questions over citizenship and immigration. I don’t know if that was an oversight or just simply that it wasn’t something that was being talked about in diplomatic circles or in certain government circles. But what’s interesting when you mention the Chevening scholarship was there was an emphasis on this idea of cultural exchange of ensuring that people study in the UK. So, there’s clearly, I think, a focus on a type of immigration or a type of person that the UK was aiming to welcome and other people who, essentially in the past, were told that they were welcome and found out very quickly that that once they had served a purpose that they weren’t welcome and were faced with a very difficult lived reality. So, back to that time then around when you’d been on a protest and you spoke with Amelia Gentleman and Patrick Vernon. Did you attend anything else or were you part of any other kind of activities around the scandal at that time? I think you mentioned to me something about your conference visits and your time when you were a researcher. I just wondered what other activities you were partaking in.
NDJ 45:04 As I mentioned, I’m interested in digital activism around Windrush. I follow a lot of the campaigners on Twitter and just try to keep track of what’s happening and so on. But I was able to attend an event that was held for persons who were trying to get their claim sorted. So, one of those institutions had a clinic.
EHdK 45:33 Sorry, just to be clear, was that a Jamaican organisation?
NDJ 45:39 No, these are all based in the UK.
EHdK 45:43 Were they organised by a group of…I don’t know, a community group or a group of people? Or was it something that was more formal, i.e. organised by the Jamaican High Commission?
NDJ 45:59 No, it was a community-led NGO. And what they did was they had a representative from the Home Office basically do like a Q&A. So, if you have questions about how to submit your application, if there’s a delay and so on. And it was interesting how the representative can’t handle the questions that were being posed. Because they’re trying to be, I guess, unbiased and present what is a standard…ok, this is what you need to do. But persons were like, “Okay, well I submitted my thing, and can you tell me?” And they couldn’t give obviously direct one-on-one advice to people. It was more of a generic okay, this is what the Home Office does kind of thing. But I still think it was helpful for those who attended. They’ve had others since then. And they’re not the only NGO organising things like this. You will see online persons organising benefits, actually. Something popped up on my phone recently. I think they’re having some kind of concert. Someone is organising a drive. So, there are different organisations doing different kinds of things. I thought, by this time persons would have been compensated and, you know, moving on with their lives. It’s 2022 and some people still haven’t gotten directly. Some persons have died. And the question is,, okay does the family have any legal claim to that benefit that was supposed to be…the settlement that was supposed to be awarded by the government? So, we haven’t really had closure to that event three to four years since…Well, longer than that. The media has been writing about Windrush.
EHdK 48:09 I find it interesting what you said about digital activism as well. So, I know that…I think it was Patrick Vernon that launched a petition right after the scandal, if I’m correct. I just wondered how closely you were following that kind of activism. And if you could tell me a little bit more about what you mean by digital activism and the role it played particularly in this in this case?
NDJ 48:41 Okay, you broke up a little bit just now, but I think you’re asking me to explain the digital activism space? How I understand it to be is NGOs using non-traditional media like social media…so Twitter. I don’t follow anybody on Instagram so I can’t speak to Instagram. I mostly have that experience on Twitter. And using that medium to either flag abuses by the government to point persons to resources that would be useful or to highlight activities and events that are to fundraise or to build awareness and so on. One of the ways it’s been actually very pivotal, I think, is with these deportation flights. So, you will see individuals put up a post or deportation like scheduled for XXX. I know an individual who’s supposed to be deported but they have family living in the UK, their partner is ill, or they have children and they’re trying to send them away, they lived in the UK for 20 plus years, etc.
EHdK 50:01 What transnational aspect is there to that? Do you think that those strategies have helped a dialogue, basically, to join up people in the Caribbean with people affected? Do you think that’s been a strategy or a tool that’s been used?
NDJ 50:29 As an outsider looking in, the way that I see it is like shining a light on the abuses and possibly pointing persons to resources. So, individuals have been able to get legal assistance through those works. If they follow individuals or they know persons who follow, they will be put in touch with support. Different types of support systems. And you will see them report. Five persons have been removed from the flight and we’re hoping it won’t be more…or the flight will not leave at all because we petitioned and we were able to get however many persons removed.
EhdK 51:12 And it’s not just actions that engage activists themselves to react but also to provide people with, or guide people towards, legal resources or part of the community who are supportive of trying to find a way to provide advice or help. What do you know about legal aid?
NDJ 51:41 I can’t speak to that. I don’t know a lot, but I wanted to say something about a point I made earlier about the deportations. But there’s always a very interesting time into when these things happen. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Jamaica earlier this year and they actually didn’t have any deportation flights before they came. I think they were supposed to have resumed now. But because they’re on…charter flights, you don’t always know when persons are coming unless you’re involved on the ground with like the Family Unification Resettlement Initiative (FURI). FURI is the organisation that responds to persons who have then been involuntarily returned. So, unless you’re working with FURI and so on, you wouldn’t know that persons are coming in, like, on a fairly regular basis. But there’s always politics or optics behind sometimes when the flight happens. So, just before the new kind of touches came, they had stopped deportation flights, there was another political event, it’s escaping me at the moment, but that was, again, that stopped the flights.
EHdK 53:15 What would you say would be the links between activist groups then or NGOs or civil society organisations and their campaigns in Jamaica in particular with the UK? Do you think there is a tendency to…do you think there’s a disconnect there, basically, or do you think that there’s been, as you said, that the increase in digital activism and, as you said as well, being an outsider looking in, which I think is a fascinating way to look at it, has that led to kind of the changes in the way people might address advocacy or organise?
NDJ 53:59 I think from the UK side maybe. Maybe not so much here because I don’t really see the same type of activism. In the digital space with social media, you may see a few newspaper reports, you may see persons reporting on the TV or on the radio. The type or scale of activism that I see online for UK-based organisations, I don’t see for Jamaicans. But that has to do with just the number of organisations that exist, the resources and so on. And it could also be that the links are there but because I’m not involved, I’m not seeing it.
EHdK 54:48 So, as we come to the end of the interview, I wanted to ask you a question about your research into the governance of migration and intra-regional migration. And the question I have is asking you about the future. Where do you see the future leading? Particularly with regards to how migration has been governed and particularly thinking of it from way beyond a Jamaican or just a UK perspective but how these systems are affecting people around the world?
NDJ 55:25 I see a bleak future. I hope I am wrong. As a Caribbean national, we’ve been seeing progressively the legal pathways to migration being eroded to the traditional destinations. If you think about the US, obviously the UK…Maybe the exception would be Canada but there’s still an asterisk there because they’re looking for, you mentioned the profile of successful migrant, they’re looking for a particular type of migrant. So, the legal pathways to migration for Caribbean nationals are being constrained because there are more restrictive policies being introduced. And you see that with increases in deportations, for example, you see that in maybe in some extent if it’s not sustained, erasure of certain things. So, like, when I was in the UK, for example, I didn’t get the opportunity to stay for a year because the government at the time ended that. I think you can do it now. But when my husband was studying, he couldn’t because, well, he had the chance, but nobody would hire a foreign national that you have to do a marketability assessment for and then get a visa for. So, more restrictive measures. But this doesn’t apply to just those, I would say, developed economies even in the region. We have restrictive policy mechanisms being introduced. I don’t actually use flow, but the flow of migrants. There was a lot of discussion about how countries should respond to the Venezuelan migration crisis. It was largely restrictive until the international agency stepped in and you kind of see a more receptive response. But by and large, Venezuelan migrants still work in the destinations that they’ve travelled to and they have limited access to health care and education and so on.
EHdK 57:39 In terms of the Americas, I think the Venezuelan example is an excellent one to show how states’ focus on different groups and different nationalities shifts depending on kind of economics and regional crises.
NDJ 57:56 In our case with Haiti. Because in 2018, Barbados removed the visa requirements for Haitian nationals. And then within a year, they have reversed it and said, get any visas and certifications, have been going all the way to Chile, and then trying to make their way to the States because they’re not wanted in this region. Even though they’re members of the single market economy, it’s a very politicised/racialised approach to dealing with unwanted migrants or undesirables or immigration acts still have a list of people labelled prohibited migrants. Persons who are ill who…with certain diseases and so on, based on what is in the law, should not have access to our state.
EHdK 59:03 We’re coming to the end of the interview. I want to just ask is there anything else that you would like to add, to talk about to conclude?
NDJ 59:13 Just to say that UWI [University of the West Indies] encourages scholar activism and that takes place in different ways. And I have been using the migration development poster as a way to highlight the experiences of persons, vulnerable migrants, including Windrush migrants. We did have a Windrush exhibition pre-COVID that went really well that the UWI museum had mounted. So, we’re trying to use different ways, including research but also public events and exhibits, to showcase the experience of individuals impacted by restrictive migration policy and I hope to be involved in future activities of that nature.
EHdK 1:00:10 Okay. Thank you so much for your time today.
NDJ 1:00:12 You’re welcome.
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