Jamaica not on EU visa list: Deportations seen as prelude to extension of 'Fortress Europe' restrictions

THE POLITICAL and diplomatic row over the Christmas Day deportations of Jamaican holidaymakers took a new twist yesterday when it emerged that Jamaica is not on a list of countries being targeted for new European immigration restrictions.

Jamaica does not feature in the European Commission's 'negative list' of 128 countries, whose nationals will in future require visas before crossing Europe's borders. The list, obtained by the Independent, does however include 30 Commonwealth countries not currently subject to visas, including the Caribbean islands of Barbados and the Bahamas.

Yesterday, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which is hoping to mount a legal challenge to the mass deportations, said it believed the targeting of the Jamaicans was an attempt to get Jamaica on Europe's 'list'. Similar action on flights from the Indian sub- continent had preceded the introduction of visas for visitors from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The Labour MP, Max Madden, said he too feared the Government was poised to announce visas before MPs return to Parliament on 11 January.

The Home Office yesterday denied they were any plans to introduce visas for Jamaicans.

Nevertheless, the Jamaican government is seeking a meeting with Foreign Office officials this week and will demand reassurance that visas are not on the agenda.

Initially, 190 passengers on a charter flight last Tuesday from Kingston were detained and questioned at Gatwick - many of them overnight. On Christmas Day, 27 were deported on a specially chartered flight with a 28th following on Monday. The move was condemned by civil rights campaigners as 'racist'.

They have similarly condemned the European Commission's negative visa list as 'arbitrary and founded on racist standards', saying that if approved it will bring the concept of 'Fortress Europe' a step closer. Countries from Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent dominate - for example, only Kenya and Malawi in Africa escape.

The commission says the countries have been classified according to their political and economic situation and according to their relations with the community.

Critics say the list defies logic, containing countries with both high and low income levels, both stable and unstable governments, and both strong historical links with community members or few links.

Meanwhile, the Home Office confirmed it had moved four women and four men - one of them believed to be Jamaican - from the Campsfield House immigration centre, where many of the deported Jamaicans had been held, because they had become 'disruptive'.

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