Deportation pushback

Deportation pushback

Windrush group urges Jamaica to refuse to land flight from UK

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

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The Jamaican Government is being urged to refuse permission for a flight from the United Kingdom (UK) with deportees aboard to land in the island this week.

Approximately 50 Jamaicans, who the British Home Office describe as “dangerous criminals”, are scheduled to arrive in the island on a charter flight late tomorrow or early Thursday.

With mounting calls in the UK to scrap the deportation, a spokesperson for the British Home Office said: “We make no apology for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals to keep the public safe. Each week we remove foreign criminals from the UK to different countries who have no right to be here; this flight is no different. The people being detained for this flight include convicted murderers and rapists.”

But in an open letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the UK-based Windrush National Organisation urged the Jamaican Government not to allow the flight to land.

The organisaion argued that the British Government was going ahead with the deportations “despite the findings of the Wendy Williams Lessons Learned Review, and now the findings contained with the Equality Human Rights Commission report which concluded that the British Home Office broke equality law with the development and implementation of the hostile environment which impacted disproportionally upon the Windrush generation and primarily black people.”

“The Home Office, yet again, is seeking to deport Jamaicans from the UK for the second time this year, at a time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the letter signed by the organisation's chairman and director Bishop Dr Desmond Jaddoo.

Bishop Jaddoo noted that the COVID-19 lockdown in England is to be lifted on December 2; however, many major cities will be in the higher tier two or tier three categories, which indicate that the virus is not under control as yet.

“Therefore, taking all of this into consideration, surely, the Jamaican Government cannot agree for this flight to land in Jamaica, as it could potentially add to the exposure of local people to the virus. Furthermore, taking into account the number of cancelled scheduled flights to date it does raise cause for concern,” declared Jaddoo.

He said taking all of the points raised into consideration, the bold step should be taken to refuse consent for the proposed flight to land in Jamaica on this occasion.

Additionally, he urged the Government to support the organisation's calls for “no more deportations of this nature until the impact of the Windrush scandal and the breaches of equality law are fully addressed in their entirety by the British Government”.

The call from the Windrush National Organisation came hours before The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that a deal has been agreed between the Home Office and Jamaica not to deport people who arrived in that country as children.

According to The Guardian, it was told by Jamaica's High Commissioner in London Seth Ramocan, that following diplomatic overtures to the Home Office, it was agreed not to deport Jamaicans who arrived in Britain under the age of 12.

The Home Office has so far declined to comment on the claim and there has been no public announcement from the Jamaican authorities.

Home Office charter flights are a common method of removing people classed as having no right to remain in Britain due to certain serious criminal convictions.

The last charter flight with deportees to Jamaica was in February. Many of those due to be sent here at that time had their deportation halted at the 11th hour due to legal action.

Charter flights to Jamaica are particularly controversial because of the Windrush scandal and due to the fact that some people earmarked for deportation arrived in the UK as children and have families there.

In 2018 a Home Office-commissioned report from the former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Stephen Shaw called for a new approach to the policy of detaining and removing people who had committed crimes but lived most of their lives in Britain. The Home Office has not implemented the recommendation.

But The Guardian reported Ramocan as saying that the high commission had made representations ahead of the charter flight and that an agreement had been reached not to deport those who arrived as young children.

“It's not law, it's a kind of understanding. They have consented to having an age limit. It isn't that the law has changed in any way. It's a consideration, a request that has been granted. We really appreciate the level of cooperation and consideration given to the representations we made to the Home Office,” Ramocan reportedly told the newspaper.

Karen Doyle from the campaign group Movement For Justice has analysed the backgrounds of charter flight deportees and said that of a sample of 20 cases who are due to fly to Jamaica this week none arrived in the UK before the age of 12.

Yesterday, another British group, Advocacy Matters, wrote to Prime Minister Holness urging him to stop the deportations, arguing that “no one can be deported without the agreement of the receiving country”.

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