J'can Diaspora calls for equitable UK immigration policy

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, June 20, 2019

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THE Jamaican Diaspora in the United Kingdom (UK) is demanding an equitable immigration policy which was promised in the campaign for Britain's exit (Brexit) from the European Union (EU).

The call to action has come from chair of Jamaica Diaspora UK Dr Kevin Brown at the 8th biennial Jamaican Diaspora Conference, which will today end after four days of deliberations and interaction on issues affecting Jamaicans who reside mainly in the UK, the United States, and Canada.

During discussions on Brexit and the Windrush scandal, Dr Brown urged, “If you're going to have Brexit which is going to remove the bias that European citizens had, then we need to ensure that we are a part of the conversation around immigration. At the moment we are not. Just reflect on the conversation that's going on. You're not part of it, there is no one there speaking on your behalf, so we need to change that. We need to keep the 'Brexiters' honest; if you campaign on an equitable immigration policy, you need to deliver it, one that is agnostic to your nationality and focused more on your skill sets.”

Dr Brown said he believes if Britain exits the EU, rights under the race relations legislation will be eroded. He noted that during the campaign Brexiters pitched a points-based system for immigration, that “no longer reflects your complexion, your race…that's what Nigel Ferage and others promised. Now you may have noticed that that is no longer what is being proposed”.

In June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU by 52 to 48 per cent, in a referendum that saw 30 million people voting to leave the 28-member economic and political bloc, of which Britain has been a member for more than 43 years. There is a preparatory transition period up to December 31, 2020.

Dr Brown further urged Jamaicans living in the UK to campaign against a no-deal Brexit. “We will have to be very clear as a migrant community, our position…those of you who are members of political parties (and) other organisations, will have to communicate this publicly, because a no-deal Brexit is a disaster not just for everybody, but more importantly for us. We cannot allow Britain to crash out of the EU,” he asserted.

A no-deal Brexit means the UK would leave the EU with no agreements in place for a future relationship with other member states.

Meanwhile, Dr Brown insisted that the Jamaican Government itself must be held to account to ratify its Jamaican Diaspora policy as soon as possible. He argued that the Government promises in that policy to promote the wellness and safety of Jamaican communities at home and abroad.

“No longer should the Jamaican Government say that Britain has the sovereign right to implement immigration rules that infringe on the human rights of Jamaicans. The Jamaican Government should not be staying silent in Kingston and watching the abuse of its citizens. If you're going to put in your policy that you're here to promote our wellness and safety, we would want to work with you to ensure that you achieve this, but in the past I'm afraid it has not happened,” he told the gathering which included High Commissioner to the UK George Ramocan.

Dr Brown said the economic implications for Jamaicans living in the UK would be significant if Britain leaves the EU, saying the referendum has already caused a reduction in Gross Domestic Product and trade and investment.

“Economic decline is predicted if we ever had Brexit, and for the diaspora this may lead to job losses. The economic fallout from Brexit is going to affect everyone, but for the migrant community it would be quite severe. It's already difficult for people of colour to get a job in Britain,” he said, pointing to the 2016 unemployment statistic was 50 per cent in the black community.

He said another particularly worrying fallout is a worsening race relations environment as the number of recorded hate crimes, which includes those involving racism, have more than doubled in the last five years.

Dr Brown emphasised that with Brexit the visa regime will remain, still making it difficult for Jamaicans to travel to Britain. The hostile immigration policy, which led to Windrush scandal in 2018, will remain, he added.

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