Jamaican visitors locked up overnight

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The Independent Online
NEARLY 60 Jamaicans arriving at Gatwick airport this week to spend Christmas with relatives were locked up overnight by immigration officials.

Yesterday, Labour and immigration welfare groups demanded an urgent investigation into what was described as 'unprecedented and outrageous' treatment of a plane-full of Jamaicans on a four-week package trip. It would not have happened to a flight from the United States, they claim.

Despite denials from the Home Office, there are claims that the flight was boarded on Tuesday by immigration officers who searched it before anyone was allowed to leave. Of the 323 people on board, 190 were detained and questioned, many held for 36 hours or more.

Marcia Green, who waited at the airport to meet her friend from 8am until midnight, was eventually told he was being sent to a detention centre in Oxfordshire.

'I am ashamed and disgusted that visitors to this country hoping to spend Christmas here have been treated worse than dogs. Men and women were segregated, then held for hours for questioning and some, like my friend, have been locked up overnight like common criminals. Can you imagine the outcry, if British people on a holiday flight to the Caribbean were treated in the same way?' she said.

The case has been taken up with Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, by Graham Allen, Labour's immigration spokesman, and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. The Jamaican High Commission is also making inquiries.

The Home Office said last night that of the 190, 48 had been refused entry and some had already left for Jamaica. Forty-five were granted temporary admission after giving undertakings that they would return for further interviews with immigration officers. Twenty-six of the passengers were still in detention, some awaiting further interview and some awaiting repatriation.

The remaining 71 have been admitted to Britain, but none have received apologies or compensation.

Yesterday a Home Office spokesman maintained that the immigration officials were only doing their job. He said that the delays were caused because the flight contained an exceptional number of non-European Union passport holders.

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