Barbados demands $4.9 trillion from former ‘slave-owning countries’
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has urged the UK to pay $4.9 trillion in reparations for the transatlantic slave trade, in a speech in London on Wednesday.
She added that talks over how this debt should be repaid will “be difficult and will take time.”
“We’re not expecting that the reparatory damages will be paid in a year, or two, or five because the extraction of wealth and the damages took place over centuries. But we are demanding that we be seen and that we are heard,” the prime minister said.
A day earlier, Mottley met with UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron to discuss bilateral relations between the countries, but would not reveal details about Cameron’s position on Britain’s slavery-related debt to the media, saying only that she hopes “the foreign secretary will take his lead from his majesty” on the issue.
King Charles has acknowledged Britain’s role in the slave trade, publicly expressing his regret over the injustice and suffering that slavery inflicted, while making no reference to financial reparations. In a speech in Ghana in 2018, Charles condemned slavery, calling it an “appalling atrocity” and “profound injustice” that can never be forgotten.
In Rwanda last June, Charles said it is important to “acknowledge our past,” including slavery, which he called a “painful period.”
The British Empire traded an estimated 3.1 million Africans, of whom 2.7 million were sent to Britain’s colonies in the Caribbean, North and South America, and other places over a period of 150 years. The slave trade was abolished by Britain’s Parliament in 1807.
Since becoming the leader of the island nation in 2018, Mottley has been an influential voice on the legacy of colonialism and has demanded reparations for the damage done by the empire.
Citing figures from a report by the Brattle Group, which analyzed the cost of the transatlantic slave trade, she said the UK owes $24 trillion in reparations to 14 countries affected by transatlantic slavery, Spain owes $17.1 trillion, France – $9.2 trillion, and the Netherlands – $4.86 trillion.
“These numbers, if taken out of context, can appear to be staggering. But in relation to the total wealth accumulated over a period of time, the numbers are actually minuscule,” Mottley said.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak publicly declined to apologize or offer reparations for the slave trade in April, saying that “trying to unpick our history is not the right way forward and is not something we will focus our energies on.”