Jamaica Observer:– The British Home Office seems set to ignore pleas to delay the deportation of several Jamaicans this week, as it maintains that all of those to be sent here are convicted criminals.
In the meantime, Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK) Seth George Ramocan says, to his knowledge, none of the people scheduled to be deported have appeals pending, and none are members of the Windrush generation, who are entitled to remain in the UK.
“We have been assured by the British authorities that there are no members of the Windrush generation on the flight and we are holding them accountable,” Ramocan said on Friday in response to questions from the Jamaica Observer.
“It may be noted that although the flight can transport up to 50 persons, it is possible that it could be far less,” added Ramocan.
Also responding to questions from the Observer last Friday, a spokesperson for the Home Office said the only people being returned to Jamaica are those who have no legal right to be in the UK.
“The planned charter flight to Jamaica is specifically for removing foreign criminals. Those detained for removal include people convicted of manslaughter, rape, violent crime, and dealing Class-A drugs,” said the Home Office.
“Our priority will always be to keep the British public safe. That is why foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them.
“The nature of this operation means we cannot confirm the full details of the offences of those who will be removed,” said the Home Office spokesperson.
Lobby groups in the UK have been calling on the Boris Johnson Administration to suspend the flight scheduled for Tuesday, with one charity arguing that they could be deporting victims of human trafficking.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has also said “many of those facing deportation have been residents in the UK for decades”.
Last Wednesday, Labour Member of Parliament Nadia Whittome urged the British prime minister to suspend the flight until a report into the Windrush scandal is published. At the same time, scores of people staged a demonstration in front of the Jamaican High Commission in London.
The Home Office official, in an e-mailed response to the Observer, said since 2010 they have removed more than 51,000 foreign nationals who have run afoul of the law.
“Under the UK Borders Act 2007, a deportation order must be made where a foreign national has been convicted of an offence and received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more. This is subject to several exceptions, including where to do so would be a breach of a person’s ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) or the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention.
“We only return those with no legal right to remain in the UK, including foreign national offenders. Individuals are only returned to their country of origin when the Home Office and courts (if applicable) deem it is safe to do so.
“Any new legal representations made whilst an individual is detained are considered carefully and in accordance with the law.”
The Home Office spokesperson scoffed at claims in the British media that one of the individuals to be deported next week is so ill that he needed an ambulance to take him to the deportation centre.
“Individuals assessed as unfit to fly for medical reasons are not removed until their medical condition has improved sufficiently or until specialist care arrangements can be made for their removal.
“The Home Office has and continues to work closely with both the high commission in the UK and the authorities in Jamaica.”
The Home Office also defended its decision to put the deportees on a charter flight, as it said while many offenders are returned on commercial flights this is not always possible.
“Charter flights are used where there are limited scheduled routes or where immigration offenders could be disruptive.
“When chartering a flight we consider how much space is safely needed and we always seek to maximise capacity of the flight, whilst ensuring they meet the highest standards of security and care,” declared the Home Office spokesperson.
Ramocan had called for a suspension in the use of charter flights to deport Jamaicans last year after 29 people had been sent home, but on Friday he clarified that this call was made in relation to the Windrush Compensation Scheme, and the scheme has since been introduced.
According to the Home Office, 29 criminals were deported on the charter flight to Jamaica last year with a combined sentence of 150 years, or an average prison term of five years.
“This includes a combined total of 49 years for drugs-related offences, including Class A drugs; 45 years/life for violent crimes including murder, attempted murder… and 18 years for sexual offences, including against a child,” said the Home Office spokesperson.