This morning, Tuesday 11th February, the widely condemned deportation charter flight to Jamaica took off with less than half of those who were initially scheduled to be on-board.
Around 56 individuals were set to be deported from the UK to Jamaica, however a Court of Appeal decision urged the Home Office to halt the flight due to detainees having limited or no access to legal advice.
Despite this ruling, the flight – carrying around 20 individuals as opposed to the intended 56 – left the UK earlier today. Shortly after, a press statement issued by the Home Office sparked further criticism due to its grossly misleading claims.
A Home Office spokesperson suggested that those on-board the flight were ‘serious, violent and persistent foreign national offenders.’ And with this, of course, came the brazen bigotry of those eager to swallow and regurgitate the government’s inflammatory claims.
Those insisting that the individuals in question are not British citizens – and therefore are right to face deportation – neglect to acknowledge that the majority arrived to the UK as children and, most importantly, that this exact rhetoric was propagated by Theresa May’s government amid the Windrush scandal of 2018.
By now, it is widely recognised that the children and grandchildren of the Windrush generation have encountered endless obstacles when attempting to prove their legal status and/or when applying for British citizenship.
It seems that this zeal for ‘justice’ does not stretch to prominent government figures – or perhaps more aptly, to those who are white and privileged
Many of those deported today – and those who were taken off the flight at the last minute but who still face possible deportation at a later date – would be entitled to British citizenship, having lived here for decades and/or having been born to parents who are settled in the UK. They have spent their entire lives residing, working and paying taxes here.
Yet the process of obtaining British citizenship is notoriously difficult and does not accommodate for the fact that many simply do not have the paperwork required, through no fault of their own. This is not to mention that extortionate fees continue to obstruct those who would be entitled to, but cannot afford, citizenship.
What’s more, perhaps the most dangerous distortion within the Home Office’s press statement is the accusation that these individuals are ‘serious, violent and persistent offenders.’ Sajid Javid similarly insisted that every single person had received custodial sentences of at least 12 months.
However, one of those detained and threatened with deportation, 30-year-old Reshawn Davis, was convicted of robbery ten years ago, served two months in prison, and has not committed a crime since. He arrived to the UK at the age of 11 and has lived here ever since.
Regardless of their crime – whether manslaughter or drug possession – they ought to be subjected to the same criminal justice system as any other British national
A similar pattern can be detected in the cases of several other detainees. MP David Lammy has argued that many were guilty of non-violent, one-time offences – including drug possession. They have all served their sentences for such offences.
In light of the fact that many of those accused of ‘serious, violent and persistent’ crimes had, in actuality, been involved in drug-related offences during their teens, human rights activists and opposition MPs have highlighted the hypocrisy of the government.
Both Cabinet minister, Michael Gove, and the prime minister, Boris Johnson, have previously admitted to Class A drug offences in the form of cocaine use. Johnson – who was born in the US – has additionally been accused of vandalism, of misconduct in public office, and has committed innumerable parking offences.
Applying the government’s logic, should the prime minister not himself be deported to his country of birth on account of his own confessions? It seems that this zeal for ‘justice’ does not stretch to prominent government figures – or perhaps more aptly, to those who are white and privileged.
This cruel act once again criminalises those whose family members helped to rebuild the UK post-World War II. Regardless of their crime – whether manslaughter or drug possession – they ought to be subjected to the same criminal justice system as any other British national.
The hostile environment continues unabated.
[Header image by Aaron Chown/PA, The Guardian]