Windrush shows geographic size no impediment to successful leadership
By Valencia Grant, press secretary to the prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Prime Minister the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris said at his press conference April 25 that St. Kitts and Nevis’ leadership on the Windrush matter in the United Kingdom indicates that small geographic size is no impediment in achieving success and change.
“From all reports and from our own assessment, St. Kitts and Nevis demonstrated that our petite size was no constraint on our formidable capacity to lead on this issue, and I want to thank all members of the team,” Prime Minister Harris said. “My CARICOM [Caribbean community] colleagues and I secured an apology from UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and our high commission in London will remain engaged with the UK government to ensure a compassionate policy not only emerges, but is being implemented. Our UK high commissioner, His Excellency Kevin Isaac, has been at the forefront of galvanizing support for a presumption of legitimacy for those affected by the harsh UK immigration policy and law.
“Since leaving London, it has been drawn to my attention that there has been a statement from the Home Office in the UK that all those affected and their children would be granted full citizenship, and monetary compensation will be paid where appropriate.
“In our meeting with the British prime minister, I raised the long discriminatory practice of the British government withholding increases in pensions of [people] who migrated back to our Caribbean islands,” Harris said. “It is a practice that pensioners residing in the UK would get an inflation adjustment to their pensions. That ‘top up’ intended to preserve the purchasing power of the pensioners has for a long time now been denied to the nationals returning to the Caribbean – St. Kitts and Nevis and [the rest of] the OECS [Organization of Eastern Caribbean States], in particular. Indeed, I am advised that Barbados and Jamaica stand alone, in that their pensioners do in fact get this ‘top up’ or inflation adjustment.”
Harris said the matter was raised when he and his delegation – which included Premier of Nevis and Foreign Affairs Minister the Hon. Mark Brantley – met with more than 200 nationals of St. Kitts and Nevis in Slough, just outside of London, on April 15.
“I promised [them] that I would raise it,” Prime Minister Harris said. “I was therefore happy to have had the occasion so soon to have raised it [on April 17] at No. 10 Downing Street, which is the official workplace of the UK’s prime minister. Prime Minister May promised to have another look at this matter, and I have directed Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kaye Bass [who also formed part of the St. Kitts-Nevis delegation to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London] to do the necessary follow-up.”
Prime Minister Harris has been providing strong advocacy on behalf of the tens of thousands of people of Caribbean descent who have lived in the United Kingdom for decades, but have had a difficult time proving that they are in the country legally. In the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Prime Minister Harris became a leading voice on the issue, receiving much praise at home and abroad after the international press covered his Downing Street interview widely.