New European nations nabbed in slave trade

Bert Wilkinson | 6/20/2019, 11:03 a.m.

Caricom has expanded its list of European slave trading nations to demand payment from them.

Caribbean Community governments have in the past week zoomed in on a number of new European countries not previously known to be associated with the Transatlantic slave trade and have now named them as being part of one of the worst crimes against humanity in human history.

The umbrella Caribbean Reparations Commission said during a news conference at the Jamaica campus of the University of the West Indies that Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Russia played their own part in slavery and would be included in any lawsuits by the region in the coming months.

The result is that letters for reparations payments will also be sent to them as well as modern day Latvia.

These would be in addition to similar demand documents that have already been sent to Britain, France, Spain, The Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark and others. CRC spokesman Eric Phillips said that The Netherlands is the country that “appears to be more open than the others to talking about the situation while Britain has out rightly refused to engage in any serious discussion. The others have been a bit non-committal but have mostly replied to our demand letters. We want to have a summit with Europe to discuss development issues as slavery was about underdevelopment.”

The commission was appointed back in 2013 and has been compiling some astonishing data about the trade of enslaved Africans in the past six years. Barbados is the lead country coordinating the work of the commission.

The commission said after a meeting in Jamaica earlier this week, the latest available research showed that there were an astonishing 36,000 voyages “between Africa and the Americas,” noting that the slave trade “reinforces the fact that the trafficking was a global enterprise.”

Caribbean governments have long hired the British law firm of Leigh Day to represent its case for reparation payments for the descendants of slavery in large part because that same firm had forced Britain to pay millions in compensation for slaughtering Kenyan tribesmen during the colonial era.

Research finds that at least 12.5 million Africans “were captured and transported with a death rate of about 14 percent per voyage. Children as young as a year old and adults up to their late 70s were brought to work sugar, coffee and other plantations in the region,” the CRC said.

The commission said that the latest findings strengthens the case of governments against complicit European states and will help it hold them accountable and aware of their responsibility “in ways they would never before have confronted.”

In previous missives about the commission’s work, officials have made links between an epidemic of chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart diseases, strokes and diabetes directly to the stress of slavery, poor diet and abysmal living conditions that started on slave ships.

Additionally, several American universities including Harvard have benefited from the proceeds of slavery and are also being engaged in discussions about some form of reparatory payments.

The body said that it has been able to compile data on an additional 1,000 voyages in the past year. “We are coming across more and more information as we continue our research, as we do more work,” said Phillips.

Britain has tried to indirectly address the issue by increasing its grant aid disbursements to the region but has steadfastly refused to engage in direct talks, fearing it might well be overwhelmed by the preponderance of evidence the CRC has about its role in African slavery. Barclays Bank and others are living beneficiaries of the slave trade and there are thousands of documents showing that Britain had paid out millions to slave owners for loss of property in the West Indies.