Caribbean Diasporic Communities in the UK
Imagine you have just reached the top of the London Eye, Britain’s most famous Ferris wheel. From the top of the ride, you can glimpse the top of Big Ben, the changing of the guards in front of Buckingham Palace, the river Thames. As you descend from the Ferris wheel, you hop on the tube and ride the Victoria line until you stop at Brixton. As you walk, you can hear music. You smell delicious spices wafting from vendors all along the street. You have made it to Little Jamaica, the cultural hub in London where you can explore the rich music, food, and fashion of Jamaica. Brixton Market is so woven into British culture that “in 2010, it even received heritage protection” to ensure gentrification would not encroach on this city’s diasporic communities of Carribeans. Despite Brixton’s popularity and its symbol of cultural celebration, the Caribbean community in the United Kingdom has faced discriminatory practices that threatened their ability to reside in Britain.
In 1948, the Caribbean migrants were persuaded to move to Great Britain in the aftermath of World War II. The promise of jobs such as construction labor for men and practicing in the newly created National Health Services for women, enticed many Caribbean adults. Although migrant labor helped build Britain’s economy, many British people and government officials assumed that the increase in the Caribbean population in Britain would be temporary. There was an assumption that many immigrant workers would return to their Caribbean countries after they had earned enough money. However, this was not the case and became more apparent as many Caribbeans bought houses and started families.
A new issue presented itself. The Carrbibeans were a part of the British Commonwealth at that time, so people coming into the UK were legal citizens. When Caribbean immigrants began having children, their children were not protected by that same citizenship. The British government seized on this fact and began requesting official documents to prove citizenship while simultaneously destroying thousands of landing documents and records through the British Home Office to make this impossible. Further, in 2012, The Home Office enacted the Hostile Environment policy, discriminatory policies to force out “illegal immigrants”. Many families watched their healthcare disappear. The government denied them living accommodations, access to bank accounts, and driver’s licenses. These policies targeted Caribbean communities that came to the UK legally and had their children’s rights snatched away by corrupt practices and because of discrimination.
The tragic circumstances of the Caribbean-British people affected by these laws have gained more recognition over the years. In March 2020, officials made new recommendations to the Home Office including: “setting up a full Home Office review of the UK’s “hostile environment” immigration policy, appointing a migrants commissioner, and establishing a race advisory board”.
Affected community members have also been able to apply for financial compensation and aid. Steps are being taken to correct the mistreatment of the UK’s Caribbean population. And we are hopeful that their beautiful culture continues to thrive in Britain so that people who visit London from all over the world can experience the cultural vibrancy of hidden gems in Brixton Market.