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Cameron says no reparations for slave trade

October 1, 2015

British Prime Minister David Cameron said his administration would not make reparations for the country's role in the Caribbean slave trade. Instead he pledged over half a billion dollars in aid.

Großbritannien Premierminister Cameron Immigration
Image: Reuters/M. Dunham

British Prime Minister David Cameron made the controversial remarks during his visit to Jamaica - the first for a British prime minister in 14 years. The BBC reported that Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller had said she had broached the issue of reparations with Cameron.

"I do hope that, as friends who have gone through so much together since those darkest of times, we can move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for the future," Cameron told Jamaica's parliament. He added he wanted to focus on the future, not historical wrongs, and Britain's longstanding position was "that we do not believe reparations is the right approach."

Cameron promised a roughly $455 million (407 million euros) aid package to upgrade bridges, ports and other infrastructure across the Caribbean and reinvigorate Britain's relationship with the region dotted with its dependencies and former colonies. He also pledged an additional $180 million (161 million euros) to improve health facilities and boost economic growth. He said that this support would make Britain the largest bilateral donor to the region.

The push for reparations

Caribbean leaders in 2014 approved a 10-point plan to seek reparations from the former slave-owning states of Europe. The Caribbean countries said European governments in addition to being responsible for conducting slavery and genocide, also imposed 100 years of racial apartheid and suffering on freed slaves and the survivors of genocide.

Slavery ended throughout the Caribbean in the 1800s in the wake of various slave revolts, and left many of the region's plantation economies in tatters. Caribbean leaders have said that the region continues to suffer today from the effects of slavery.

Governments in the Caribbean have estimated that reparations for the slave trade could cost trillions of dollars and some have floated the idea of debt relief.

Some 46,000 British slave-owners, including a distant relative of Cameron's, were among those compensated a current-day equivalent of 17 billion pounds for "loss of human property" after the country emancipated its slaves in 1833.

ss/bw (Reuters, AP)