Britain owes Barbados $4.9 trillion, according to Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley. The comments made during a visit by Mottley to London echo earlier claims she has made and add to demands coming from various nations for Britain and other former colonial powers to make amends for centuries of imperialism, slavery and exploitation.

Mottley offered her estimate of Britain’s debt to Barbados as she gave a speech at the London School of Economics, where she once studied. 

“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,” Mottley told her audience. “But we are demanding that we be seen and that we are heard.” 

Her remarks came at an event honoring Barbados’ first poet laureate, who recited verses related to the country’s history of enslavement and imperialism as well as more recent issues like the killing of George Floyd. 

“For the first time the world recognized that we could no longer ignore the trauma of four centuries of enslavement and barbarism and of denying people their humanity,” Mottley said.

The Barbados Prime Minister also acknowledged a trip that King Charles made to Rwanda in 2021 in which he expressed “personal sorrow at the suffering of so many” and pledged to learn more about “slavery’s enduring impact.”

In her remarks, Mottley said, “I want to salute the king for having the courage to understand that this is a conversation whose time has come.”

Mottley also met with former British Prime Minister David Cameron, who now serves as foreign minister, though she did not say whether they discussed the issue of reparations. Current U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has previously dismissed calls for Britain to apologize or provide compensation for its enslaving and imperialist past, saying that “trying to unpick our history is not the right way forward.”

Resistance from officials like Sunak has not stopped a growing list of leaders and countries from holding Britain and other oppressive powers accountable for their past actions. Jamaica and other Caribbean nations have publicly called for reparations from their former imperial exploiters in recent years. The British history of exploitation in Barbados is long, reflecting the extent to which the country and the region were under foreign domination or influence. Britain colonized Barbados in 1627 and imported enslaved Africans to toil on sugar plantations in the colony. Two centuries after initial colonization, Britain abolished slavery in Barbados in 1834, but the colony did not gain independence until 1966 and only left the Commonwealth of Nations in 2021. The level of damage and exploitation inflicted during this long period is extensive. As staggering as the $4.9 trillion sum presented by Mottley may be, it is significantly less than what Barbados has called for in the past; she’s previously cited a reparations figure of $24 trillion, noting a “standard definition” of the type of damage imposed by Britain.

It’s yet to be determined whether the calls from Barbados and other nations will move British officials to make stronger acknowledgments of their sordid history or give firm commitments to make amends. But Mottley’s demands, mentioned in the heart of the former colonial capital, are the latest in a growing chorus of voices that will be hard to ignore.