Row over Montserrat aid package
Friday 22 August 1997
The delays and confusion in arranging help for the beleaguered inhabitants have led to anti-British demonstrations on the normally placid island against the Governor, Frank Savage, and sparked claim and counter-claim from Whitehall and Montserrat.
The Government moved quickly to try to defuse the row, defending itself against claims of inactivity and hesitation. "I understand that people are disgruntled but we have acted very quickly and reasonably," said Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development. "We provided funds for people who want to travel to Britain, we're now announcing a package for people who want to relocate in the Caribbean," she told the BBC.
Adults moving to other countries in the Caribbean would get pounds 2,400 over the next six months, provided they did not have savings and assets worth more than pounds 10,000 pounds. Those under 18 would get pounds 600. Britain would also pay air fares to nearby countries. But that is a long way short of the recommendations made by local officials.
The package is pegged to average earnings on Montserrat and is for those living on the island on August 16, when scientists said the volcano was becoming much more dangerous. Those who left earlier can apply for help under another scheme yet to be announced.
In a live broadcast to Radio ZJB Montserrat, Ms Short warned islanders that "money did not grow on trees".
"We have to account to our Parliament for the way we spend our money. We have to compare it with what British people get when they have a disaster." She added: "Some kind of crazy figures have been thrown around," but said much higher payments had "never been on the cards".
Britain has already waived work permit regulations for Montserratians arriving in Britain, and allowed them to claim social security. This is a temporary concession and 1400 have already taken up the offer.
Defending itself against critics, the Foreign Office said yesterday that "there may be a breakdown in communication between the government in Montserrat and its own citizens". But the issue is currently being handled by three departments - the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development and the Home Office - and there are signs of weak co-ordination.
There were also clashes between local officials and the Foreign Office over whether an evacuation was under way. "Those people who want to leave are leaving," a Foreign Office spokesman said. "Some people are taking up the offer of voluntary evacuation, not in great numbers but in an orderly fashion. There's no emergency."
Montserrat officials said the Foreign Office was wrong. Eugene Skerritt, permanent secretary to the chief minister, said: "The evacuation has not started and the false reports are causing us a lot of trouble. People believe we are hiding something from them."
There is also mounting anger on the islands neighbouring Montserrat, which have taken in those who have fled the wrath of the volcano. Antigua now hosts 4,000 Montserratians - as many as remain in Montserrat itself. "I have written to the Secretary of State and said that the situation is now dire and requires urgent attention," said Ronald Sanders, High Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda in London.
- 3 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
- 5 Medina: Saudis take a bulldozer to Islam's history
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
George Galloway left with severe bruising after attack in Notting Hill by man 'shouting about the Holocaust'
Brother and sister, Christopher Buckner and Timothy Savoy, arrested for 'committing incest after watching 'The Notebook''
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
- < Previous
- Next >
Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 5 Primary Teaching positionRands...
£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...
£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...