Cold welcome for those who return to sun

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IN THE 50 years since the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury some immigrants from the Caribbean have returned to their native lands. Many spent their working lives here saving and dreaming of "going home", and then repatriated themselves for their retirement.

For some it was a pleasant homecoming, but others found they had forgotten the Caribbean way of life and that they were being treated as outsiders and even traitors.

In a small house among the sugar-cane fields of St Philip parish in Barbados, Corlet Ramsay is still getting to grips with life on his native island, which he returned to in 1992.

He was born in the house, 56 years ago, yet in his 35-year break in London, working variously as a plumber's mate, a porter at Lyons Corner Houses and a telecommunications engineer, he lost his reputation as a true Bajan.

"They call the people who left for work in England 'deserters'. There's quite a bit of bad feeling about people who come back," he said.

"My heart lies in Barbados but things are very hard now. A lot of people are coming back with money, although they left empty-handed and they have skills too. But to get work here, you have to be political and know the right people, and pay them sometimes. There's a sort of exploitation. At least in England I could get work and I didn't have to pay nobody to get it."

There is work in Barbados but mainly in the mushrooming tourism industry, and in offshore banking, where younger hands and minds are required.

"I could do community work, but it seems they don't want me for that either. Maybe things will get easier as the years go on, but right now I don't feel very welcome and sometimes I miss England.

"My life in Tottenham [north London] was quite calm. I spent a bit of time in the pub with friends, sometimes we go and play a little cards. I miss it even though it was cold and wet. The weather here don't make everything right."