Independent: Barrel children and those ‘orphaned’ by Windrush + Quote from Patrick Vernon


Barrel children and those ‘orphaned’ by Windrush + Quote from Patrick Vernon

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It isn’t possible to discuss the Windrush migration and its impact on black families in any meaningful way without delving into the complex and painful legacy of slavery. Centuries of captivity at the hands of colonialists prevented the formation of close black family relationships while also making stable, secure family life very difficult because enslaved Africans, who were bought, sold and viewed as property, lived with the constant possibility of separation through the sale of one or more of their own.

“In terms of family relationships, we had to start again; the dial was reset from the end of emancipation as a result of what was endured throughout slavery but we’re here and it’s important to remember that because there is a narrative, commonly used by some, which suggests that all black families are dysfunctional,” Vernon continued.

Be that as it may, many Windrush migrants felt compelled to migrate from the Caribbean to seek better financial prospects in Britain. Why? Because their countries’ economies were broken owing to under-investment following emancipation whereupon the majority of surplus profits from slavery went to the UK.

<p>‘Every single Caribbean household has a left-behind story,’ says Vernon </p>
‘Every single Caribbean household has a left-behind story,’ says Vernon  (Getty)

Vernon said: “Every single Caribbean household has a ‘left behind’ story; we all do; my family does. The expression that’s used is ‘transnational families’; we export. “Looking at Jamaica, there are more of its citizens living overseas than on the island – and that’s probably one of the tragedies of globalisation and the impact of being forced through work to start a new life.

“For some of the Windrush victims,” he continued, “when they came over here as minors, they were left behind in the Caribbean because their parents were trying to raise money. When they (the parents) came over here, they were told the streets were paved with gold and then found out they weren’t. They were discriminated against in the workplace, which meant they had less money; they expected to earn more, to fast track their plans to bring the children over … but then realised that this plan would take longer than expected.

“A lot of children had to wait several years until they were reunited with their parents and meet new siblings. As a result, it was difficult for them to adjust to new families and the new school system. Nevertheless, many managed to break through all that and work, raise families and contribute to the community in various ways.”