This Tuesday (11th February), around 50 people are set to be deported to Jamaica on an immigration removal charter flight.
The move constitutes the second of its kind since the Windrush scandal originally broke, and has been widely condemned by politicians, activists and migrant support networks.
The Home Office have insisted that all of the individuals set for deportation are foreign criminals and none are Windrush victims. However, the advisory panel for the review into the original Windrush scandal- which is still yet to be published- have stated that all forced removals should be halted.
The review- entitled ‘Windrush lessons learned’- was originally set for publication in March 2019, until delays during the compilation stage led to this date being pushed back. The production of the review has also been hampered by leaked extracts. In June of last year, a leaked draft was published in which it was argued that the Home Office failed in its responsibility to counteract racism. And as recently as last Thursday (6th February), BBC Newsnight reported seeing a copy of the review in which it is recommended that the government re-think its policy of deporting ‘foreign-born offenders’ who arrived in the UK as children.
The leaked extracts demonstrate that the review will advise against deportations of this kind. Whilst the Home Office state that all those scheduled for deportation have been previously convicted of crimes, a number of these crimes did not warrant a long sentence.
This has been discussed by MP for Tottenham David Lammy:
“I think it is extraordinary that it is even happening. There is a young man who was about to be deported who did two months for GBH, and the young man I spoke to was groomed… he was groomed into selling drugs, he got 15 months for selling, he was let out in 2015 and is about to be deported in 2020. We stopped deporting criminals to Australia in 1868, why have we started doing it through the back door this way?”
The ‘young man’ referred to by Lammy was groomed into a county lines drugs gang during his time at a children’s prison. Cases such as this should be treated as incidents as modern slavery, let alone crimes that warrant forced deportation.
Whilst the Home Office state that all those scheduled for deportation have been previously convicted of crimes, a number of these crimes did not warrant a long sentence.
The Guardian understands that the review will urge a widening of who constitutes a Windrush victim. With this in mind, it is imperative that the government re-think their decision to press ahead with forced removals. Until the review is published and a full understanding of the situation is gained, there is a very real risk of ruining lives and destroying families.
Omar Khan of the Runnymede Trust said:
“They haven’t got to the bottom of the previous injustices, and here they are possibly making more. Given that deportations were one of the sources of the injustice of the initial Windrush scandal, until the lessons learned review has been published, and until the compensation scheme has run its course, there should be no more deportations [to Jamaica].”
To make matters worse, many of those scheduled for deportation are currently unable to access legal advice. This is due to a lack of network coverage for Home Office-issued mobile phones in the Heathrow area- home to the Immigration Removal Centres where the scheduled deportees are being held.
Until the review is published and a full understanding of the situation is gained, there is a very real risk of ruining lives and destroying families.
The Home Office have admitted that around 678 detainees in the Colnbrook and Harmondsworth IRCs are being affected by the signal issue. They have stated that those with tickets for the Jamaica charter flight have been made a priority for new sim cards.
But the damage has already been done.
Bella Sankey of Detention Action- the organisation which issued a legal challenge against the Home Office because of the phone network problems- had this to say:
“An eleventh hour issuing of sim cards may not be sufficient for those seeking to challenge their removal on Tuesday’s flight. Not to mention the impact on those that have been removed while signal has been down.”
[Header Image: Wall Street Journal]