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The UK Should Tackle Colonial and Slavery Legacies and Injustices Faced by Windrush Generation

HRW Oral Statement - ID with the Working Group on People of African Descent - HRC54

Members of the Windrush generation and their families are joined by then-shadow home secretary Diane Abbott (center) at a rally outside Downing Street in London, May 5, 2018. © 2018 Catherine Wylie/Press Association via AP Images

Mr. President,

Human Rights Watch would like to stress the importance of the Working Group’s mandate to protect the rights of people of African descent around the world. We agree with the Working Group that this is only possible through urgent reckoning with continuing legacies of colonialism and slavery.

In relation to the Working Group’s recent visit to the United Kingdom, we would like to stress the following:

Former colonial and slavery powers need to stop denying the right to reparations for those impacted as enshrined in international law. Development aid projects are not a substitute for giving effect to that right. Reparations should be provided through a victim-centered process that guarantees meaningful participation and representation of affected communities aimed at full reparations for ongoing losses and the impact of colonial abuses and enslavement.

The Chagossian Indigenous people, who were forcibly displaced from their homeland by the UK and US governments more than 50 years ago, continue to fight for their right to reparations for ongoing colonial crimes. The UK government should ensure meaningful participation of the Chagossians in negotiations with Mauritius over the future of the islands, and that any outcome ensures full reparations, including allowing the Chagossians to return to their homeland.

People of African descent also face structural injustices in immigration systems of former colonizers. Human Rights Watch agrees with the Working Group that members of UK's Windrush generation have a right to redress for the “irreparable harm” suffered when wrongfully treated as illegal immigrants by the UK government, yet we note that many are still denied their right to an effective remedy. Reforms are needed to address this injustice.

Thank you.

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