GBR | Nov 28, 2020

Pressure mounting on UK government to halt Jamaica deportation plane

/ Our Today

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UK proceeding with deportation flight to Jamaica despite backlash

The British government is under increasing pressure to halt a planned deportation flight to Jamaica with up to 50 people, as campaigners and activists steps up their pressure on the Home Office.

Declaring that the move would separate 31 children from their fathers, some 82 black British public figures have urged airlines, which have previously allowed such charter flights, to refuse any assistance to the British government to deport the 50 people to Jamaica. The public figures includes international model, Naomi Campbell, historian David Olusoga, actresses Thandie Newton and Naomie Harris and writer Bernardine Evaristo.

The Kingston-bound flight will be the second deportation operation to Jamaica this year. The last chartered flight to leave for Jamaica in February this year drew concerns from English lawyers after it was revealed that mobile phone outages had prevented deportees from accessing legal advice.

In that case, a last-minute court ruling granted a reprieve to 25 people, while 17 others were still deported to Jamaica. In the present case, the Home Office reports that the December 2 flight will deport “convicted murderers and rapists”.

Under British law, a foreign national, who has been convicted of an offence and received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more, can be eligible for deportation.


However, human rights lawyer and director for the Centre for Migration Advice and Research, Jacqueline McKenzie is putting up a stout defense for the in-bound Jamaican deportees. She is arguing that the 12-month limit unjustly targeted people responsible for less serious crimes, making reference to a young man she represented, who was deported to Jamaica in February 2019, after serving 14 months in prison for driving offences.

McKenzie is contending that “the majority of people on the list are on the list for drug offences… . If you have been in the UK as a child, you shouldn’t be deported irrespective of what your offence is.”

She laments that whether the individual got the right documentation or not, “you’re culturally British, you’re part of this society. You’ve offended here, you are punished here, and your punishment is going to prison. People should not be punished twice.”

Protesters decry attempts to deport Jamaicans from the United Kingdom during a demonstration last year. (Photo: The London Economic)

In the meantime, there are growing concerns over the impact of separating families with civil liberties and migrant rights groups claiming that eight of the men due to be deported have 31 children between them. The children are aged three to 18.


Although the Home Office has publicly declared that none of the deportees is eligible for the Windrush Scheme, Zita Holbourne, co-founder of the anti-racist Black Activists Against Rising Cuts organisation is adamant that many of those to be deportees  have direct links to the Windrush generation through their parents or grandparents. According to Holbourne, “it’s like an extension of the Windrush scandal. You’re now punishing their children and their grandchildren”.

Zita Holbourne. (Photo: Project Twist-IT)

The Windrush Scheme allows Commonwealth citizens settled in the UK before January 1, 1973, who do not have documentation to prove it, to obtain evidence confirming their British citizenship free of charge. Holbourne is claiming that the detainees at Colnbrook detention centre in Middlesex, who are scheduled to be on the December 2 flight, are experiencing similar challenges as those in February of not being able to access legal advice.

More than 6,400 foreign national offenders have been deported from Britain since January 2019, based on official statistics from the Home Office. Since April this year, enforced returns and deportations have seen more than 30 charter flights to countries including Albania, France, Germany, Ghana, Lithuania, Nigeria, Poland and Spain.

Responding to criticism of the planned deportation, the Home Office said: “We make no apology for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals to keep the public safe.”


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