Home Office defends removal of 'serious and dangerous' criminals amid claims of discrimination
Amnesty International UK expresses concern over Government's “cruel” deportation flight to Jamaica
12 February 2020
Amnesty International UK has criticised the Government's high-profile deportation flight to Jamaica on Tuesday, warning that the Government risked repeating the Windrush scandal.
While a last-minute court action by Detention Action on Monday meant that 25 of those scheduled to be deported could not be removed, the flight to Jamaica still went ahead yesterday with 17 on board.
Detention Action successfully argued at the Court of Appeal that a problem with an O2 mobile phone mast near Heathrow meant that those who had been held at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook immigration removal centres (IRCs) pending deportation had not been allowed proper access to legal advice.
It is believed that the 17 who were deported had been held at Brook House IRC near Gatwick and thus were not covered by the court order.
Following the departure of the flight from Stansted yesterday, Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK's Refugee and Migrant Rights Director, said:
"The fact this deportation flight has gone ahead is extremely concerning. Among the most glaring injustice is the Government's complete disregard for the rights and lives of people who have grown up in this country since childhood.
"A number of people the Home Office sought to deport on this the flight are likely to have had rights to British citizenship as children – rights that were denied to them by the Home Office's excessively high fees for citizenship."
Valdez-Symonds added that to exile people from their home and families, after depriving them of their rights in the first place, was cruel.
He joined others in calling for a halt to further deportations until the Windrush Lessons Learned Review is published and its recommendations addressed.
The Independent reported last week that a draft copy of the Windrush review, which had been obtained by Labour MP David Lammy, said that the government should "consider ending all deportation of foreign national offenders where they arrived in the UK as children".
According to BBC News, the still-unpublished review states: "Government should review its policy and approach to FNOs [foreign national offenders], if necessary through primary legislation. It should consider ending all deportation of FNOs where they arrived in the UK as children (say, before age of 13). Alternatively, deportation should only be considered in the most severe cases."
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) said last year that it had seen leaked excerpts from the review and found: "The report makes clear that Windrush was no accident but the result of policies and systems rooted in lying and racism. It recommends immediate suspension of Right to Rent, which the High Court found was causing racial discrimination, pending a robust enquiry."
The Home Office defended the deportation flight to Jamaica, saying it had acted to remove serious and dangerous criminals.
BBC News quoted a Home Office spokesperson as saying: "Today 17 serious foreign criminals were deported from the UK. They were convicted of rape, violent crimes and drug offences and had a combined sentence length of 75 years, as well as a life sentence.
"We make no apology whatsoever for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals.
"We will be urgently pursuing the removal of those who were prevented from boarding the flight due to a legal challenge over a mobile network failure."
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister added: "The offences which these people were responsible for include one manslaughter, one firearms offence, seven violent offences, two which are in the category of rape or sexual offences and 14 drugs offences."
One of those deported had been sentenced to 11 years for rape, whilst two others had received 7 and 8 year sentences for violence.
Metro.co.uk reported, however, that a man who has lived in the UK since age 12 and had two convictions for non-violent burglary offences was among those deported.
Metro.co.uk noted that campaigners argued that most of those being deported had been convicted of one-time drug offences when they were young, and most had lived in the UK since they were children and now had no links with Jamaica. Campaigners believe they are being 'disproportionately' punished for minor crimes compared to their white counterparts.
David Lammy said: "The government wants to give the impression that everyone who was deported was a hardened violent criminal, but the reality is many of those who were scheduled to be deported had committed non-violent, one-time drugs offences."