Jamaican officials are petitioning Britain to compensate them 7.6 billion pounds (around $10.5 billion USD) as reparations for the European country’s role in the transatlantic slave trade, Reuters reports

Reuters reports Jamaican lawmakers are preparing to submit a petition to Queen Elizabeth II seeking billions of pounds in compensation over the enslavement of Africans that generated fortunes for British merchants. Enslaved Africans were forced to work on plantations, cultivating sugar and other crops.  An estimated 600,000 Africans were shipped to Jamaica to be chattel slaves, according to the National Library of Jamaica.

Jamaica became an English colony in 1655 after the British seized the Caribbean island from the Spanish. While the country gained its independence in 1962, Jamaica remains part of the Commonwealth, and the queen remains head of state.

When Britain formally abolished slavery in 1834, it paid reparations…to slave owners. As Reuters reports, the British government took out a 20 million pound loan to pay them, and only finished paying the interest payments in 2015, a reminder that history that seems like a distant past is still very much shaping our present.

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“We are hoping for reparatory justice in all forms that one would expect if they are to really ensure that we get justice from injustices to repair the damages that our ancestors experienced,” Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s minister of sports, youth and culture, told Reuters.

“Our African ancestors were forcibly removed from their home and suffered unparalleled atrocities in Africa to carry out forced labor to the benefit of the British Empire,” she said. “Redress is well overdue.”

The British government in the 19th century took out a roughly $27-million loan to compensate slave owners after the empire abolished slavery, recently paying off the interest payments in 2015.

Reuters reports Jamaican lawmaker Mike Henry, who is a member of Jamaica’s Labour Party, said the price tag of reparations could be worth some $10.5 billion.

“I am asking for the same amount of money to be paid to the slaves that was paid to the slave owners,” he told Reuters.

The petition will be filed pending advice from the attorney general and several legal teams.

 

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