Stop the Plane: Outrage Over Deportation Flight to Jamaica

Protestors from the Movement for Justice against deportations to Jamaica

Over the last two decades, the Home Office have deported thousands of Black Britons to Jamaica. The latest deportation flight to Jamaica, still scheduled for tomorrow, will see 50 more people separated from their families right before Christmas.

Once again, the news has caused widespread outrage and accusations of institutionalised racism. 

Moreover, there is further outrage after some individuals on the flight have potential Windrush links and therefore leave to remain in the UK. The British government is refusing to assess how far these links extend, blatantly ignoring their right to stay.

Labour MP Holly Lynch furthered the importance of assessing these links in her address to parliament. She said: “We recognise that those who engage in violent and criminal acts must face justice. However, we also hear that at least one person on that flight has a Windrush generation grandfather; there is another whose great-aunt was on the HMT Windrush, and another whose grandfather fought in the second world war for Britain.

“It is clear that we have not yet established just how far the consequences of the Windrush injustice extend.”

The UK government has defended their decision stating they are doing ‘the right thing’ for the country by removing foreign criminals.

The government is refusing to assess how far these links to Windrush extend, blatantly ignoring their right to stay

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The planned charter flight to Jamaica is specifically removing foreign criminals. Those detained for removal include people convicted of manslaughter, rape, violent crime and dealing class A drugs.”

Under the UK Borders Act, any foreign ‘criminal’ who has received a custodial sentence of more than 12 months is eligible for deportation. However the 12-month limit creates a grey area between summary offences and indictable-only. An indictable-only offence is a serious criminal offence that can only be tried in the Crown Court.

Previously, Labour MP David Lammy highlighted not all the 17 people onboard the February 11th deportation flight were murderers or rapists. “Of course, the government says they’re all rapists, they’re not all rapists, not even close. Eight of them have no violent offenses, I know nine that are drug offenses, I know one that’s in there for grievous bodily harm. Please, let’s be honest, let’s be transparent.”

Ten months down the line and there is still criticism over a lack of clarity as to why individuals are being removed from UK society when they have served their prison time.

Windrush protestor in London
A protestor standing against the treatment of the Windrush generation [Image Peter Marshall]

The government has refused to confirm the crimes of individuals on the flight, which has left the public questioning the truth.

Human rights lawyer, Jacqueline McKenzie gave her opinion to Al Jazeera. She supports the point that if you have been in the UK since childhood, you should not be deported. No matter what the offence is. McKenzie defines those being deported as ‘culturally British’; they are integrated members of society, work here and have families here. The majority moved to the UK as children.

Too much time is being spent on disputing whether these individuals are criminals, instead of understanding how wrong mass deportations are and the impact it has on the surrounding communities.

According MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy, 31 children will be directly affected by the looming deportation. The UK government know full well that letting those men board the flight will mean they’ll potentially never see their children again.

To be deported over a crime they have already served time in prison for raises serious questions about potential racial disparities for BAME individuals, who may be more likely to be subject to criminalisation and then potentially, deportation.

In parliament yesterday, the Under-Secretary of State, Chris Philp insisted that there is no element of discrimination, stating “Her question was that there was some element of underlying racism in this, but I have pointed out already that the vast majority of people who have been removed this year have been removed to European countries.”

Too much time is being spent on disputing whether these individuals are criminals, instead of understanding how wrong mass deportations are and the impact it has on the surrounding communities

If anything, Philp does the opposite of reassuring against racial disparities by promoting xenophobia. The government does not publicise the exact numbers of white people deported each year, and a justification of ‘to European countries’ does nothing to identify figures in comparison.

Public figures have urged airlines to reject the Home Office’s deportation orders. Celebrities including Naomi Campbell and David Olusoga are arguing the deportation would be “wholly inappropriate at this time.” Overall 91 public figures are included in the address to managing directors of six airlines, who have a record of working with the Home Office. However, as it stands the flight is still scheduled to leave tomorrow.

The take-off will only worsen the overall trauma felt by the black British community as a result of the Windrush scandal and further injustices. The struggle to understand people as individuals with varied experiences, not ‘criminals’ to be exiled, continues against the hostile environment and the criminal justice system.

Header image [Guy Smallman]