Little public support for slave trade reparations

William JordanUS Elections Editor
March 15, 2014, 10:50 AM UTC

British people tend to agree that the slave trade has hurt modern-day Caribbean counties, but most believe there is no debt owed

A coalition of 15 Caribbean countries seeking reparations from European powers for the slave trade. recently revealed their demands. The plan would see former slaving-owning European countries like the UK, France, Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain issue an unqualified formal apology for slavery, give greater development aid and cancel international debt. The Caribbean Community (Caricom), the coalition that approved the plan, said Caribbean countries continue to suffer from the effects of slavery today.

Many British people would appear to agree: 46% believe the Atlantic slave trade in the colonial era has had a negative impact on the development of Caribbean countries that continues to this day. Only 26% think there is has been little or no present-day impact. 28% don’t know.

Slavery ended throughout the Caribbean in the 1800s. 

Yet few (26%) British people think present-day European countries “owe a debt” to Caribbean nations whose ancestors experienced slavery, while the majority (53%) believe no debt is owed.

And even fewer (17%) think European countries involved in the slave trade should “pay compensation” to Caribbean nations. Two-thirds (66%) say European countries “should not have to pay for what their ancestors did”.

In a statement given after Caricom made their demands public, a Foreign Office spokesperson said that the United Kingdom “has been clear that we deplore the human suffering caused by slavery and the slave trade”, but added that the government does not see reparations as the answer. “Instead, we should concentrate on identifying ways forward with a focus on the shared global challenges that face our countries in the twenty-first century,” the spokesperson said. 

Image: Getty

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