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‘Returning’ to Barbados as a Second-Generation Caribbean-Briton: getting back, or getting ahead?

Claire N’gwete-Freymann
p. 155-168


This article offers an analysis of two biographic interviews carried out in 2021 with second-generation Caribbean-Britons with a project of return to Barbados. These interviews are part of a wider PhD research project on the nature and scope of the transnational ties established by next-generation Caribbean-Britons with contemporary Jamaican and Barbadian societies, which relies on 60 interviews of adult (21+) members of the second and third generations. These two interviews suggest that the next generations have reinvented the project of ‘return’ to the ancestral homeland which has been passed down to them by their elders. They have used transnational living – and projects of returning to the Caribbean in particular – as a way of getting ahead in their lives and of making the most of their dual heritage, while adapting to external macro-constraints. This article first provides a description of the socio-political and legal macro-context in which these personal projects of return emerged, before offering a comparative and context-based analysis of the two interviews.

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1When ‘return migration’ became an object of research across the social sciences in the late 1960s (Cerase, 1967; Davison, 1968; Patterson, 1968; Anwar, 1979; Gmelch, 1980), the concept was initially defined as the voluntary decision to return permanently to one’s own birthplace after having spent at least a few years abroad (Cerase, 1974). Fifty years down this road, the definition of ‘return’ has been extended to include the next generations, i.e., people who were born in a multi-ethnic society in a host country from parents or grandparents who were born abroad. Second-generation return to the Caribbean region has been an object of research since the 2000s (Levitt & Waters, 2002; Potter, 2005; Phillips & Potter, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009; Reynolds, 2011).

2In addition, the changing reality of the phenomenon of return in the twenty-first century demands that the criteria of returning ‘permanently’ be questioned – and arguably even abandoned. At least this is what is suggested by the interviews of two second-generation Caribbean-Britons with a project of return to Barbados which this article provides an analysis for. This article therefore broadly redefines ‘return’ as moving some of one’s material and immaterial resources overseas, and paying regular physical visits in a country which one may regard as ancestral for a variety of reasons. This looser definition seems to better reflect the experience of 21st century return, which has increasingly meant ‘building a life that straddles two countries’ rather than ‘eventually closing the migration chapter of one’s life’.

3The issue with such a broad definition of ‘return’ is that it overlaps with that of ‘transnationalism’, a concept which emerged in the late 1980s to describe the new strategies implemented by first- and next-generation migrants to make the most of their hybrid cultures and connections in an increasingly mobile and interconnected world (Thomas-Hope, 1988; Tölölyan, 1991; Glick-Schiller, Basch & Blanc-Szanton, 1992; Faist, 1998; Vertovec & Cohen, 1999; Portes, Guarnizo & Landolt, 1999). Here is how Glick-Schiller, Basch and Blanc-Szanton conceptualized transnationalism:

  • 1 Glick-Schiller, Nina, Basch, Linda and Blanc-Szanton, Cristina. (1992) ‘Transnationalism: A New Ana (...)

“The word immigrant evokes images of permanent rupture, of the uprooted, the abandonment of old patterns and the painful learning of a new language and culture. Now, a new kind of migrating population is emerging, composed of those whose networks, activities and patterns of life encompass both their host and home societies. Their lives cut across national societies and bring two societies into a single social field. […] we argue that a new conceptualization is needed in order to come to terms with the experience and consciousness of this new migrant population. We call this new conceptualization, “transnationalism,” and describe the new type of migrants as transmigrants. […] Transmigrants develop and maintain multiple relations – familial, economic, social, organizational, religious, and political that span borders.1

4 The transnational paradigm became dominant among researchers focusing on return migration because it convincingly accommodates the complexity of contemporary return experiences. We argue, however, that the concept of return migration has not lost its relevance, as return projects continue to shape the representations and trajectories of many second-generation Caribbean-Britons.

5 This article will try to assess to what extent systemic factors frame and shape life trajectories and may encourage or limit agency in individual projects of return from the United Kingdom to Barbados. We will therefore keep an eye on macro-structures while analysing the micro-trajectories and outlooks on return of our two interviewees. To do so, we will first provide some extensive macro-level context on the UK and Barbados, and then discuss the two interviews from a critical context-based perspective.

The Macro-level Context

The Macro-level Context for Next-Generation Caribbean-Brits in the UK

The immediate political context in which these two interviews were conducted in 2021 was one of renewed accusations of systemic racism against Caribbean-British people in the UK, which we will term the ‘Post-Windrush scandal context’, and which itself is part of the wider ‘Post-Brexit context’ in which anti-immigration, anti-diversity and pro-repatriation discourses have thrived (Renshaw, 2021, p.195). The reviving of the global Black Lives Matter movement more recently triggered by the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 only added fuel to the national conversation on anti-Black racism.

  • 2 This is the preferred phrase used by victims and activists to term what had been branded the ‘Windr (...)
  • 329. Contributions for expenses of persons returning abroad (1) The Secretary of State may, in such (...)

7 The Caribbean-British group in the UK at large has been shaken by the ‘Home Office scandal’2 since early 2018, when the press exposed the serious consequences of the ‘hostile environment’ policy on elderly Caribbean-born people who had entered the UK as minors prior to 1973, had made a life there and had regarded their immigration status as settled. This ‘hostile environment’ policy had been initiated in 2012 by the coalition government led by David Cameron. An early tool of this policy, which aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration by creating deterrents such as strong administrative barriers and penalties for whoever might have been unable to prove their status while sending a strongly dissuasive message to prospective immigrants, was to step up the ‘assisted voluntary return’ programme for illegal immigrants. This programme had existed since 19713, and had been extended in 1999 by the Blair government under the name ‘Voluntary Assisted Return Programme’ (VARP). For a few months in the summer of 2013, the Home Office promoted this programme by using the very explicit slogan ‘Go home’, which was targeted at ‘ethnic’ neighbourhoods with high poverty rates around London and amplified by the media, to be read and heard by illegal immigrants and marginalised minority ethnic Brits alike, thereby possibly creating a confusion between the two groups.

8 In 2014, the Home Office stepped up its ‘hostile environment policy’ and ‘quietly removed a key protection from the statute books for some British residents of the Windrush generation who could [now] face deportation’4 after passing the Immigration Act which introduced status checks by private landlords, DVLA, ban­ks and NHS5. Vulnerable elderly Caribbean-born people were made jobless, destitute, homeless, denied healthcare and were in some cases deported because they were unable to prove that they had lived in Britain6. Most of the immigrants who were hit hard by the 2014 law change had something in common: other than having arrived prior to 1971, a common point was that they had spent a life in poverty, had never travelled ‘back home’ and therefore never applied for a passport in their name, had never owned a house or asked for a loan, were not inserted in administrative or political support networks, and were therefore unable to produce the extensive paperwork required by the Home Office to prove that they had indeed been living in the UK continuously (Gentleman, 2019). Among those people, Caribbeans were overrepresented.

  • 7 Scarman report (1981), Amnesty International, ‘Death in Police Custody of Joy Gardner’ Report (1995 (...)

9 The Windrush scandal turned staying in the UK into a right that had to be defended collectively across the Caribbean-British group. One could expect this protracted scandal (2012-present) to have caused Britons with a dual heritage, and younger next-generation Caribbean-Britons in particular, to start questioning their Britishness, if they hadn’t before. It also revived accusations of systemic racism in the Home Office which have been documented by a number of high-profile government and independent reports since the 1980s7. That the very institution which is responsible for enforcing nationality law – and thereby drawing the outline of the nation – has been proven to be consistently biased against Caribbean-Britons is highly relevant long-term macro-context for our interviews.


11 The fact that Caribbean retirees proved to be more vulnerable to the supposedly colourblind ‘hostile environment’ policy than other first-generation groups once again shed light on the socio-economic and political marginalisation of the Caribbean-British community. The marginalisation of this group is a well-documented fact that has been evidenced by every UK census since 19918 and every ONS data since the 1950s. People who described themselves as ‘Black-Caribbean’ in the 2011 census made up just about 1.1% (595,000) of the population of England and Wales. Among them, about 40% (237,000) were born in the Caribbean, and 60% (358,000) were second or third generation immigrants9. The 2011 census showed that those people who described themselves as ‘Black-Caribbean’ fare consistently worse than all other ethnic minority groups10 when it comes to educational attainment, mental health, relation with law enforcement and housing11 – despite not having the lowest employment rate. The historical socio-economic vulnerability of the ‘Black Caribbean’ group seems to have been largely handed down to the next-generations of Caribbean-Brits. In the light of longer-term census data (1991-2001-2011), the Home Office scandal appears to be only an epiphenomenon of the structural socio-economic marginalisation of the Caribbean-British group as a whole and may not have deeply affected the outlooks of elder members of this group who have experienced marginalisation for decades.

12 Their socio-economic disadvantage has made the Caribbean-British group more dependent on public services and income redistribution schemes (Nanton, 1999). It therefore seems like a reasonable assumption that the Caribbean-British group as a whole is likely to have suffered more acutely from the government’s austerity policy since 2010 than other groups, all the more as the last decade of austerity overlaps with the so-called ‘housing crisis’. A shortage in available housing which has caused real-estate prices to skyrocket, the ‘housing crisis’ has affected many households in urban areas, especially in the largest cities where Caribbean-Brits are most likely to live (London, West Midlands). As a result, for many younger Caribbean-Britons of the second or third generations with middle-class qualifications and jobs, access to home ownership, which would consolidate their middle-class status, seems to be an ever more elusive dream.

13 This socio-economic and political backdrop is key to understanding the ‘return’ projects that were discussed in these interviews in terms of identity-safeguarding and discrimination-dodging. It is a safe assumption that next-generation Caribbean-Brits could have been actively developing strategies to escape systemic discrimination and marginalisation within British society – and that some form of returning arrangement may be one of the ways for them to achieve that goal.

The Macro-level Context for Returnees in Barbados

  • 12 Source: Barbados Statistical Service.
  • 13 Source: World Bank.
  • 14 Source: Barbados Statistical Service.

14 Barbados had a population of around 269,800 in 202112, which makes it the sixth most populous independent state in the English-speaking Caribbean, after Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Bahamas and Belize. Yet it is by far the smallest of these territories in terms of land surface. Its population density is 627 inhabitants per square kilometre as of 2021 – higher than England’s. However, high population density, though critical as it pushes housing prices up and threatens natural resources, has not been the most discussed issue in the national political debate lately – even though sea level rise has been making environmental concerns more pressing. The reason why overpopulation is not an immediate concern in Barbados is that net migration has been negative for the last twenty years13, and the rate of natural population increase has been below 6 per 1000 inhabitants since 2000 – and has been negative since 201614.

15 The main sources of concern of the Barbadian government in terms of demographics have therefore rather been 1) the ageing population, which makes Barbados an exception in the Caribbean region as a whole and threatens the balance of public service budgets, and 2) the negative effects of the brain drain on the Barbadian economy, as a large proportion of young skilled professionals emigrate, mostly to North America. It therefore seems like the Barbadian government should be willing to design policies to encourage younger skilled next-generation Caribbean-Britons, Americans or Canadians with a desire to resettle on the island with their young families to actually do so, in order to lower the average age of the returnee population, which has been mostly retirees, and compensate for the low fertility rate– but this has not been quite happening.

  • 15 Source: World Bank data.
  • 16 ‘Barbados receives more than two-thirds of its foreign exchange earnings from tourism’, in SPENCER, (...)

16 The brain drain is a major issue which the last few governments have tried to tackle, even more so as Barbados has invested a lot into its public education and health systems since the country became independent in 1966. Many trained professionals are leaving the country for comparative lack of career opportunities, but despite the high demand for health and other trained professionals, wages remain unattractive by British, Canadian or American standards while the cost of living is high. With a GDP per capita of around $18,480 pre-COVID (2019)15, Barbados rated better than all of the aforementioned English-speaking Caribbean states in terms of wealth per inhabitant, with the exception of Bahamas, yet its heavy reliance on tourism and the service sector makes it quite vulnerable to global economic downturns, as Covid has shown16. Barbados is therefore faced with the paradox of producing many skilled workers at high cost yet struggling to fill many skilled job positions and develop its economy and job market.

  • 17 As defined in O’REILLY, K and BENSON, M. (2015) ‘Lifestyle Migration’, in The Routledge Handbook of (...)

17 What makes Barbados particularly attractive to middle-class Caribbean-British returnees who can afford to contemplate ‘lifestyle migration’ – apart from the tropical weather, scenery and culture – is its relatively high standard of living, quite effective public services and low crime, political stability, as well as its cultural proximity to Britain (Barbados has long been dubbed the ‘Little England’ of the Caribbean or ‘Bimshire’). But the limited job opportunities, relatively quite high cost-of-living and economic instability cause many skilled workers who have built a career abroad to decide negatively when it comes to making a bold professional move there. Free-willed ‘lifestyle migration’ to Barbados, defined as ‘the movement of relatively affluent individuals to new destinations in pursuit of a better way of life’17, therefore seems to remain largely the privilege of retired people commanding at least some investment capacity, or of those willing to drop their previous careers and invest their personal savings to start businesses in the tourism sector.

Barbados’ Diaspora Policy and Return Policy

18 Since the turn of the 21st century, successive Barbadian governments have increasingly developed a ‘diaspora policy’, i.e. a development and diplomatic strategy consisting of activating networks of first- and next-generation Barbadians abroad to attract foreign investment into the island’s economy, as well as to be used as diplomatic transmission belts which complement intergovernmental relations. It entails speaking to diaspora groups abroad, either when on an official governmental tour of a host country or through virtual town halls, or by relying on meso-level intermediaries in the form of diasporic organizations. Since 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of the Motley BLP18 government has been working on a new economic policy which they named the ‘diasporic economy’. The ‘diasporic economy’ is presented as key to Barbados’ strategy to take up the aforementioned socio-economic challenges. The Barbadian government aims at ‘mobilising the diaspora, developing a database of their skills, their resources, and the opportunities which they present. […]’. The new strategy also entails ‘introducing commercial diplomacy training for all staff who work at missions and consulates, and Barbadians in the diaspora’19, which suggests that the government regards the most valuable members of the diaspora as Trojan horses that are maybe best kept abroad – as relay antennas of the government’s commercial strategy.

19 Successive Barbadian governments have shown a willingness to tap the diaspora as an overseas resource but no eagerness to entice them to return too permanently. The ‘Returning Nationals Programme’ implemented in 1996 as an incentive for first-generation retirees to relocate in Barbados was never updated – only rebranded as the ‘Barbados Network Programme’ in 2010. The current Ministry of Trade and Foreign Affair’s ‘Diaspora and Consular Divisions’ regards the diaspora as potential tourists, trade partners and investors that could be leveraged to support the country’s development – rarely as potential returnees. The ‘diasporic economy’ policy only consents to expanding the boundaries of the symbolic nation – not of the actual one – as plans to give access to Barbadian citizenship to all second and third-generation Barbadians abroad have been delayed.

  • 20 The ‘Diaspora Relations’ section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade’s website pro (...)
  • 21 Note that many small Caribbean island-states have nationality laws that allow rich foreigners to be (...)

20 All in all, it seems like the Motley government is taking a pragmatic, non-ideological approach to its diaspora policy, by carefully assessing the value of the diaspora before committing to them or sending them a clear signal that they are welcome to relocate in Barbados. The old belief that the country should rely on returnees to promote development20 was replaced by a new belief in transnational ‘networks’. Barbados’ diaspora policy so far has been built on a loose definition of the diaspora and a strict definition of the nation21. The government has increasingly treated all prospective immigrants, whether they be nationals, descendants of nationals or foreigners, in the same pragmatic way: they are welcome to stay in Barbados on condition they have skills and capital to sustain themselves and contribute.

21 Such is the economic and legal macro-context in which the man and the woman we interviewed are hoping to return to Barbados. 3230

A Critical Context-Based Analysis of two Interviews with Second Generation Caribbean-Brits with Projects of Returning to Barbados

  • 22 Cambridge Online Dictionary

22 These multidimensional interviews focus on the outlooks of second-generation Britons of Caribbean heritage with projects of returning to Barbados. By ‘outlook’, we mean22: A) the way they think about their likely future situation (prospects, anticipations) B) how they view things from their particular place as second-generation Caribbean-British people (representations and discourse). Return is to be understood as a project, a horizon, something one has on their mind and which may give structure, direction and meaning to individual life trajectories, as well as influence and inform their connections to societies and nation-states.

23 The two interviewees are a woman born in Manchester in the 1950s and a man born in London in the 1970s, both second-generation Caribbean-Brits. She is the daughter of two Jamaican-born immigrants, while he holds Barbadian citizenship through his Barbadian-born mother. The most significant difference between them, it appeared, is that they are not currently at the same point in their life cycles, as he is married with a career and in the process of raising young children, while she is single and retired with adult children. Both could be described as middle-class professionals, as she holds multiple degrees in social sciences and built a career in education, while he is a freelance software engineer. Both are homeowners in Manchester and London. Both describe their strong connection to the Caribbean as a major influence on their choices of friends and social practises. Both have been able to afford frequent travels to the Caribbean for most of their adult lives, although he also reports travelling to other destinations while she seems to have concentrated all her saving and spending efforts into her travels to the Caribbean. She describes a frugal lifestyle in the UK which made her able to afford travelling with children as a single working parent in the 1990s and to later have a house built in Barbados, whereas he does not describe similar return-oriented saving and spending patterns.

24 Both know Barbados first-hand, as they repeatedly visited family there. Both own land and real estate property in Barbados, as they bought pieces of land in the early 2000s, while he also inherited his mother’s house. Both pay taxes in Barbados. Both are aware of living conditions there, and of the culture, the infrastructures, the public services, the cost of living, the political debate. Both listen to Barbadian radios on a daily basis and keep up with the national conversation. It seems that they value keeping in touch with Barbadian news because it connects them with their Caribbean friends and family in the diaspora as much as with their relatives on the island. Their plan of returning is a topic of conversation and an interest which structures their social lives, as they regularly interact with liked-minded Caribbean-Britons to share information and for mutual support.

25 However, they do not view the UK in the same way or present their plan of moving away in exactly the same terms. The fact that they have had different experiences during their secondary socialization stage seems to be one of the reasons why they describe their experience in Britain differently. Both were raised by Caribbean-born parents, but she spent a lifetime in Manchester, while he spent his childhood in Nigeria and teenage years in Barbados, before coming back to London as a young adult. Although they both describe racism as an unquestionable reality in the UK, she describes it as something that affected her a lot when she was receiving her primary and secondary education in the British school system as well as throughout her career, while he does not report any personal experience of racism. The fact that he did not come of age in Britain seems to explain his apparent lack of emotional attachment to the UK, while her discourse on the UK is more ambiguous. She expresses a strong attachment to British institutions such as the BBC or the NHS, whose standards she does not want to renounce, while he does not express such attachment to British culture. Both of them stated that most of their friends in the UK share their Caribbean background, and that many of those friends also have plans to return. Their networks of Caribbean-British friends frequently share useful information on social media pertaining to their projects of returning to Barbados.

26 They both chose Barbados as their preferred destination for return and emphasised the same reasons, yet they don’t share the same connection to the island. He had a Barbadian mother, spent over ten years there growing up and left after graduation to start a career in London. He is connected to his extended family there, grew up in the culture, has memories and childhood friends there. He has travelled there frequently since he went back to the UK twenty years ago, including recently with his Guyanese-British wife and two young sons. She was born in a Jamaican family and her parents were always open about their plan to return to Jamaica one day when she was growing up. Her father was able to return with his second wife in the early 1990s. She visited him two to three times a year with her children until his death, and although she describes her first visit in Jamaica as a ‘homecoming’ and a defining experience, it was always clear to her that she could not live there. She later re-partnered with a Barbadian man, with whom she had a daughter, and started visiting Barbados regularly for her to meet her Barbadian family, to whom she became very close. So his connection with Barbados was built through his mother in his childhood, while her connection to Barbados was built through her daughter and ex-partner in her adulthood.

27 Both describe Barbados as their preferred destination because it is quiet – quieter than Jamaica or Nigeria – and has ‘systems that are similar to Britain’. He even describes Barbados as ‘Caribbean light’. Both use the phrase ‘the best of both worlds’, though not in the same way. She means ‘I want to equally share my life between England and Barbados’ and enjoy the best in each, whereas to him this phrase seems to rather mean ‘My preferred living place is Barbados, because it is a perfect compromise between Britishness and Caribbean-ness as it reconciles the best of both worlds.’ Both of them present Barbados as the perfect compromise: it can offer them a high standard of living and the highest level of safety while offering them some cultural comfort, as it is not too alien to British culture, as well as an escape from their experience of racialisation in the UK. He remarks that Barbados would also provide excellent public education to his sons. She remarks that in case she needed urgent healthcare, Barbados would provide quality healthcare – though expensive – something that her father did not have in Jamaica and which contributed to deteriorating his health in later life. As someone who has already retired, she has expressed concern about the availability and cost of healthcare, whereas he has not.

28 Their respective narratives emphasise different motives and find different meanings in their plans of “going home”. It seems that she emphasised the idea of getting back, while he solely stressed the idea of getting ahead with his life. By ‘getting back’, I mean that she expressed the idea of carrying out a project of ‘going back’ that ran in her family, of completing a cycle and performing a duty, as well as the idea that leaving and returning to the ‘source’ was a way of getting back at the UK where her experience had been ambivalent. As a child of the 1950s and as a scholar with an extensive social science background, her discourse is much more political than his and emphasises systemic discrimination which was overcome by personal resilience. She thus also emphasises that returning to the country of her choice in her own terms was a way of asserting her individual agency and personal success – of ‘getting ahead’ in her life. She describes her return to Barbados as a well-deserved reward for a life of hard-work and sacrifice and a source of pride. She is now ‘winding down’, she wants to ‘kick back’. She explains she has done enough service to the community when she was working in ‘challenging inner-city schools’ and expresses the view that the institution that employed her was very ungrateful. Migration is an assertion of her own hard-won freedom and agentivity, and a personal achievement. She wants to ‘enjoy her Barbadian home, travel around, take it easy’, and have her family over a lot, thereby moving her family’s center of gravity away from the UK. Finance is the main limiting factor slowing down her progress towards that goal.

29 As for him, he strongly expressed the idea that moving back to Barbados was a way for him to move forward with his life trajectory and fulfil individual aspirations connected to his personal sense of identity and achievement, but not as the completion of a cycle. He did, however, emphasise the notion that ‘bettering oneself’ had been an imperative for Black-Caribbeans since the abolition of slavery, and that he felt he was taking part in a multigenerational project of ‘getting ahead’ by using ‘migrating skills’ which have run in his family and which he had built in his early life.

30 Both of them had dreamt of moving to Barbados to work in the past, but neither of them succeeded in doing so. She was hopeful that she could be hired as a teacher and use her British degrees in Barbados – a thought which she describes as shameful in retrospect as she used to regard her British training as inherently superior, and she did look for a job there for a while in the early 2000s. She eventually renounced that plan when she realized she would not be hired on her terms. Similarly, he has been freelancing as a software developer in London for a few years in the hope that this would make him more mobile and enable him to work remotely from Barbados for international clients, but this opportunity has not materialized – not even in the post-covid era. Both have concluded that it is almost impossible for a trained professional with a successful career to move to Barbados, because it often means accepting a lower position and income which would not have allowed them to sustain their families considering the high cost of living in Barbados. She says she is not aware of anyone who successfully returned to work. She gave up on that dream and focused on her project of having a house built where she could spend the winters after she retired, and he put his plan of returning to Barbados on hold – with the hope that he may be able to fulfil his dream when his sons are grown up and before he retires.

31 The income gap between Britain and Barbados is a strong deterrent, as is the cost of living in Britain, where both own a home which they don’t want to sell, given the high market value it has reached, which they regard as their safety net. Neither of them has plans to move to Barbados permanently, so they need high incomes to be sure to afford frequent travel. As a non-national, Barbadian law allows her to stay for six months on end on a tourist visa, and her plan is to spend the winters in Barbados to save on fuel bills and escape the British winters which feel too ‘insular’ (sic), and to return to England over the summer to reconnect with her family and go through ‘top to toe medical checks’. She is eager to keep her rights as a British citizen and pensioner, as is he. Neither of them would relinquish the rights that come with a British passport.

32 She emphasises the notion that her retirement must allow her to ‘wind down’ and reap the benefits of the efforts she made over the course of her career. She stresses how being single allows her to do as she pleases and organize her life between two countries – even more so now she has retired. He, on the other hand, cannot contemplate immediate permanent resettlement because his wife does not share his desire to leave London, where she has a career and relatives. He fancies building what he calls a ‘halfway house’ in Barbados, similarly displacing his household’s center of gravity away from London.

33 Marriage and children are their main pull factor in Britain. He does not emphasize a push factor – except for the British weather, but his description of feeling ‘castigated’ when living and working in London as well as his description of life in Barbados as being deeply beneficial to his well-being may suggest that racial othering in a majority-white country such as Britain could be another push factor. The pull factors he describes in Barbados are the stress-free environment, sunshine, the opportunity of enjoying a longer and more healthy life, and being content with watching his children grow up in a more welcoming environment. The use of the noun ‘halfway house’, which is also used to refer to a medical institution, suggests that his concerns are mostly about his and his family’s mental health. Both interviewee express the view that living in the Caribbean is a way of slowing down one’s ageing process.

34 Her return project was carefully budgeted and eventually materialized after she retired in late 2021, when she started living in her own Barbadian home, whereas his project is not budgeted and is not likely to materialize shortly. She is not planning to work in Barbados, yet she expects to get some revenue from letting parts of her house to tourists. She explains that many second-generation people she knows are planning to return, and many are switching from Jamaica to other Caribbean islands with lesser ‘crime rates’. But few of them actually plan, save and do it over two decades like she did. He similarly says that many of his friends have this dream, but that he knows only one friend who has ‘looked into the figures’. He describes his migration history in terms ‘skills’ (ability to adapt) and he describes these skills as transferable 1) from one destination country to the next 2) from parents to children. He is looking forward to becoming part of the returnee community in Barbados, as he is aware that is the only segment of society in which he would be fully welcome, but he says he could also move to some other sunny country such as Spain should it be his wife’s preferred option. She shows similar awareness that integration into Barbadian society as a returning Briton will not be seamless but shares an elaborate strategy of good-enough integration through her network of relatives. She is happy to mix mostly with her ex’s elders in Barbados, as she does not have any elders in Britain. She does not express a desire to further integrate into Barbadian society and described herself as a long-term holidaymaker.


35 To conclude, it seems that both our interviewee’s life trajectories have been shaped by their projects of return, which has informed their choices of friends, careers, and consumption habits. Our interviewees’ shared desire of return is fuelled by a need to mitigate the hassle of living in an unwelcoming majority-white country, escape discrimination and restore their identities, but also inspired by the middle-class belief that having a secondary residence and creating a side life in the Caribbean would be their ultimate socio-economic achievement. Both seem to have internalised the idea that the Barbadian government prefers welcoming them as ‘glorified tourists’ rather than as permanent residents or members of the nation and are content with this, as they do not contemplate a full integration into Barbadian society, but rather an existence in the margin as part of the ‘resettlement community’. Both are very familiar with Barbados but would probably not describe themselves as part of Barbadian society – the lifestyles and outlooks they describe show that they rather identify fully as diaspora members. That they will never return permanently is likely and irrelevant, as they seem to have chosen to settle in the transnational social space rather than set their sights on integrating a society they don’t fully identify with. As far as external constraint are concerned, financial limitations and family ties seem to be the two main impediments to permanent return to Barbados for Next-Generation Caribbean-Britons, as they have high expectations in terms of standard-of-living and will not accept downward mobility, while also being bound by strong family ties on either sides of the Atlantic.

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1 Glick-Schiller, Nina, Basch, Linda and Blanc-Szanton, Cristina. (1992) ‘Transnationalism: A New Analytic Framework for Understanding Migration’, Annals of the New York Academy of Science, Vol. 645, Issue 1, p.1.

2 This is the preferred phrase used by victims and activists to term what had been branded the ‘Windrush scandal’ in the 2018 media campaign.

329. Contributions for expenses of persons returning abroad (1) The Secretary of State may, in such cases as he may with the approval of the Treasury determine, make payments of such amount as may be so determined to meet or provide for expenses of persons who are not patrial in leaving the United Kingdom for a country or territory where they intend to reside permanently, including travelling expenses for members of their families or households.’ Immigration Act 1971 <>, retrieved on June 30th, 2022.

4 retrieved on June 30th, 2022.

5 retrieved on June 30th, 2022.

6 ‘The 1971 Immigration Act confirmed that the Windrush generation had, and have, the right of abode in the UK. But they were not given any documents to demonstrate this status. Nor were records kept. They had no reason to doubt their status, or that they belonged in the UK (…). But over time those in power forgot about them and their circumstances, which meant that when successive governments wanted to demonstrate that they were being tough on immigration (…), this was done with a complete disregard for the Windrush generation.’ WILLIAMS, Wendy. (2020) Windrush Lessons Learned Review, Report ordered by the House of Commons, p. 7.

7 Scarman report (1981), Amnesty International, ‘Death in Police Custody of Joy Gardner’ Report (1995), Macpherson report (1999).

8 As the 1991 Census was the first to include questions about ethnicity and to suggest institutional ethnic categories.

9 Source: 2011 Census for England and Wales (ONS).

10 except for the Gipsy and Irish traveller­s group.


12 Source: Barbados Statistical Service.

13 Source: World Bank.

14 Source: Barbados Statistical Service.

15 Source: World Bank data.

16 ‘Barbados receives more than two-thirds of its foreign exchange earnings from tourism’, in SPENCER, Andre. (2019) Travel and Tourism in the Caribbean: Challenges and Opportunities for SIDS, Andrew SPENCER, Palgrave MacMillan, p.10.

17 As defined in O’REILLY, K and BENSON, M. (2015) ‘Lifestyle Migration’, in The Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology (1st edition), Routledge, abstract.

18 Barbados Labour Party

19 Published on September 15, 2020, retrieved on September 1st, 2022 from

20 The ‘Diaspora Relations’ section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade’s website provides an explanation that the ‘Returning Nationals Programme’ had been born ‘out of a commitment by government to tangibly recognize the contributions of the diaspora in accelerating Barbados’ economic, social and cultural development’. Retrieved on September 1st, 2022 from

21 Note that many small Caribbean island-states have nationality laws that allow rich foreigners to be granted a passport in exchange for a substantial payment to the treasury, while Barbados does not.

22 Cambridge Online Dictionary

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Claire N’gwete-Freymann, « ‘Returning’ to Barbados as a Second-Generation Caribbean-Briton: getting back, or getting ahead? »Observatoire de la société britannique, 29 | 2022, 155-168.

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Claire N’gwete-Freymann, « ‘Returning’ to Barbados as a Second-Generation Caribbean-Briton: getting back, or getting ahead? »Observatoire de la société britannique [En ligne], 29 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2023, consulté le 25 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Claire N’gwete-Freymann

Professeure agrégée en CPGE et doctorante en civilisation britannique à l’Université Sorbonne Nouvelle

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