Action looms over expulsion of Jamaicans: Immigration welfare groups consider seeking judicial review following 'racist' detention of visitors

THE Government is likely to face further legal action over its treatment last week of 190 Jamaicans on a Christmas holiday trip to Britain.

Immigration welfare groups in Jamaica are interviewing the 27 removed from Gatwick in what was said to be an unprecedented Christmas Day mass expulsion, with a view to launching judicial review proceedings over the actions of immigration officers. The interviews are being co-ordinated by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which has condemned the initial detention of the 190 on a four-week holiday package to the UK as 'racist'.

One Jamaican, Peter Honegan, is likely to seek a judicial review later this week, after an 11th hour intervention by a High Court judge on Christmas Day. Mr Justice Clarke granted his lawyer, Louise Christian, an injunction preventing his removal pending reconsideration of his case.

The Home Office subsequently granted Mr Honegan temporary admission, releasing him at midnight on Christmas Day to join his family in Hayes, Middlesex.

But yesterday Ms Christian said her client had been lucky. Mr Honegan had a strong case for being allowed entry into the UK because he had visited before without overstaying - and he had been able to make contact with lawyers.

She claimed that others had been moved to Gatwick on Friday and held without access to family or lawyers until their Christmas Day departure on the aircraft chartered by the Home Office. The families had not even been allowed to bring them a Christmas dinner, she said.

The legal moves come as Max Madden, the Labour MP, delivered a letter to Downing Street demanding that the Prime Minister confirms or denies that a special operation was mounted to deal with the Jamaicans who were deported.

Mr Madden, said: 'I think there are very grave suspicions about the way this operation was mounted.'

As far as he was aware there was no intelligence leading to the deportation of so many people and no drugs were found on the flight.

Bill Morris, the Transport and General Workers Union secretary, yesterday described the treatment of the Jamaicans as 'Britain's Christmas of shame' and warned: 'The Government hopes that by bundling the detainees out under cover of darkness on Christmas Day they will have silenced the voice of protest. They are wrong.'

He said he would be calling on the TUC to lead a campaign against these 'unjust immigration laws which enable people to be deported by immigration officers without any recourse to a trial or appeal'.

But Terry Dicks, Conservative MP for Hayes and Harlington, defended the immigration officers' actions. He said: 'The Government has every right to send back anybody it wants, and will be applauded for doing so in this particular case.'

One of the three Algerians who had escaped from Group 4 security guards was back at the Campsfield immigration detention centre in Oxfordshire after being found at a hospital. He had injured his ankle as he climbed over the fence to escape.