Saint Kitts
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Kittitian Sent Back from England to Island in 1966 Leaving Behind Five Daughters in England.

File photo. HMT Empire Windrush carried 1027 passengers and two stowaways on a voyage from Jamaica to London in 1948. Of these, more than 800 passengers gave their last country of residence as somewhere in the Caribbean.

ByEditor-June 21st 2023.

Recent declassfication of documents has revealed that hundreds of long-term sick and mentally ill people from the Windrush generation were forcibly repatriated to the Caribbean under a scheme that was supposed to be voluntary.

Formerly classified documents reveal that at least 411 people were sent back between the 1950s and the early 1970s, under a scheme that was meant to be voluntary.

Families say they were ripped apart and some were never reunited.

June Armatrading’s father, Joseph, was one of those sent back from England.

Like other people from the Caribbean who travelled to the UK after the war, Joseph was a British subject, because his birthplace – St Kitts – was a British colony and still administered directly from London, and he was a British passport holder.

Saint Kitts and Nevis was previously a British colony and local residents were British subjects. Although Saint Kitts and Nevis gained independence in 1983 and citizens no longer hold British nationality, they continue to have favoured status when residing in the United Kingdom and as Commonwealth citizens they are eligible to vote in UK elections and serve in public office there.

Joseph arrived in the UK in 1954 and lived in Nottingham with his wife and five daughters. However, he began struggling with his mental health in the 1960s and was diagnosed with paranoid psychosis. In 1966, he was returned to St Kitts and never saw his family again.

June, who is now 65, said her mother told her and her sisters their father had “abandoned” them.

She grew up always believing her father didn’t love them, causing her a “massive, big heartbreak”.

Yet the BBC reports seeing a letter, written by Joseph, asking to return to the UK so he could rejoin his family. Little is known about what happened to Joseph after this, says the BBC.

And in previously confidential letters, government officials admitted the procedure of repatriating Mr Armatrading had “not been correct”. He had been wrongly stripped of his passport, the papers revealed.

When we showed the letters to Ms Armatrading, she was shocked.

“I’m upset. It’s upsetting, it’s really upsetting… how dare they?” she said. “This was a vulnerable man. You’re supposed to look after your vulnerable people, and they didn’t. They just left him – they abandoned him.”

If any reader has information about what befell Joseph Armatrading later in life that they would wish to share, the St. Kitts and Nevis Observer may be contacted via the SKNO letterhead email addresses.

Sources: BBC, Wikipedia.