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Caribbean countries to seek $33 trillion in slavery reparations

People calling for slavery reparations, protest outside the entrance of the British High Commission during the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Kingston, Jamaica (AFP via Getty Images)
People calling for slavery reparations, protest outside the entrance of the British High Commission during the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Kingston, Jamaica (AFP via Getty Images)

Caribbean nations will demand $33 trillion (£26.5 trillion) and a formal apology from European countries over their role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Caricom, a political and economic union of 15 Caribbean countries, has established a ten-point plan to negotiate a financial settlement with Britain, France, Spain and Denmark as part of a process of “international reconciliation”.

The plan will include a full formal apology, education and health funding, transfers of technology and debt cancellation.

A report produced by an American consulting firm Brattle for Caricom estimates that Britain owes $19.6 trillion, while Spain owes $6.3 trillion and France $6.5 trillion. Jamaica is owed $9.5 trillion.

Verene Shepherd, a Jamaican professor of history and vice-chairwoman of the reparations commission for Caricom, told the Times that Caricom needed “a negotiating figure” to begin with.

“The crime is huge. The responsibility for what happened is huge.”

Caricom’s website notes that some European governments have only published a “statement of regret” rather than a full apology.

It adds: “Such statements do not acknowledge that crimes have been committed and represent a refusal to take responsibility for such crimes. Statements of regrets represent, furthermore, a reprehensible response to the call for apology in that they suggest that victims and their descendants are not worthy of an apology. Only an explicit formal apology will suffice within the context of the CRJP.”

The King of Netherlands has offered a formal apology for his nation’s links to slavery, but the British Government has not. In 2021, King Charles called Britain’s involvement in the slave trade the “darkest days of our past” while on a visit to Barbados.

Speaking in the House of Commons in April, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak denied that the UK would offer a formal apology or “commit to reparatory justice” through reparations.

He said he believed that “trying to unpick our history is not the right way forward, and it’s not something that we will focus our energies on”.

Last year, former BBC correspondent Laura Trevelyan donated £100,000 in reparations to the University of West Indies (UWI) in Grenada over her family’s ownership of more than 1,000 enslaved Africans.

Arley Gill, a lawyer and chair of the island nation’s Reparations Commission, told the Telegraph that she hoped that King Charles would “revisit the issue of reparations and make a more profound statement beginning with an apology, and that he would make resources from the Royal family available for reparative justice”.

“He should make some money available. We are not saying that he should starve himself and his family, and we are not asking for trinkets.

“But we believe we can sit around a table and discuss what can be made available for reparative justice.”