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At least seven men due to be deported on a charter flight to Jamaica granted last-minute reprieve

Home Office accused of ‘crass’ decision-making after removals halted following legal intervention

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 06 February 2019 12:41 GMT
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Why is the Home Office getting so many immigration decisions wrong?

At least seven men who were due to be deported on a charter flight to Jamaica have been granted a last-minute reprieve, although dozens of other Caribbean nationals were removed from the UK.

Detainees at the Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre told The Independent they heard “screams” as people were taken from their cells in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

They were then transferred to Birmingham airport, where they were put on the first charter flight to Jamaica since the Windrush scandal erupted.

The Independent has been made aware of seven men who were due to be on the flight but whose deportations were halted after lawyers intervened.

The Home Office has confirmed that 29 people were flown to the island on Wednesday on a flight that was initially expected to hold 50 deportees. This suggests others may have also been allowed to remain in the final hours.

Two of the men granted a reprieve were key witnesses in the inquest into the death of an immigration detainee. The decision to remove Christopher Richards and Joseph Nembhard was reversed after solicitors were forced to take the “extreme” measure of lodging an application for judicial review with the High Court.

Mr Richards told The Independent: “I do feel happy but end of the day still low because I’m still in the detention centre and want to get out. There’s no reason for them to put me in here. There is a lot about this that isn’t right.”

Owen Haisley, who has lived in Manchester for 41 years and has three British children, was also allowed to remain in the UK.

The DJ, whose great aunt was part of the Windrush generation, also had his deportation halted following submissions from his solicitor.

Twane Morgan, a former soldier who served in the British army before he was discharged with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2007, was also granted a last-minute reprieve after a court injunction was secured.

A fifth man, Lascelles White, 61, has applied to regularise his status under the Windrush scheme but not yet received a response. His solicitor successfully made an urgent court application on Tuesday night.

Another man, whom The Independent has decided not to name, required urgent medical attention after reportedly cutting himself in his cell on Tuesday night. Hours later, he was taken from his cell and placed on a coach to Birmingham airport. There, he submitted an asylum application and was taken off the flight.

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Labour MP Helen Hayes said: “Under pressure, the Home Office has admitted that people due to be deported to Jamaica by charter flight shouldn’t be on the flight. Confidence in Home Office decision-making is at an all-time low – use of charter flights must stop before more people suffer injustice.”

Immigration solicitor Jacqui McKenzie said it showed that “not much care” went into the Home Office’s decision-making.

“They had all the information before. They knew Twane suffered from PTSD; they knew [he] suffered a really troubled life, they knew Joseph and Christopher were witnesses in a pending inquest,” she said. “The decision-making is poor. It’s crass. They’re just doing into in a hurry.”

Detainees who were not being removed told The Independent that people were “dragged” from their cells this morning.

Marvin Holder, 44, who has been in UK since 1997, said: “It was one of the worst experiences of my life. They came in, opened the door and took the guy. He was taking his time and they just dragged him out. He wasn’t resisting but they said he was taking too long. He knew it was happening. He said his mum had paid a solicitor to do something – try to get an injunction – but that didn’t happen.

“You could hear the screams of people down the corridor. It was hard to deal with. It breaks my heart. I got up this morning crying.”

The Home Office said that a number of serious criminals were among the deportees, while others had been convicted of less serious crimes such as dangerous driving and drug offences.

News of the deportations emerged less than 24-hours after Labour MP David Lammy accused the Home Office of “killing” black British people and condemned ministers for arranging a charter flight to Jamaica before the Windrush review was complete.

All of those set to be removed on the flight are said to have criminal convictions, but all have served their sentences in UK jails and campaigners argue that their removal – which for many means returning alone to a country they left as young children – constitutes a “brutal double punishment”.

Information on those facing removal, gathered by campaign group Movement for Justice, indicates that seven of them came to the UK as children, eight have British-born children, and 11 have relatives in the Windrush generation.

The last charter flight to Jamaica was in March 2017. Another was scheduled to leave last April, days after the Windrush scandal broke, with a 63-year-old grandmother among the deportees, but it was cancelled for reasons the Home Office did not disclose.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “On 6 February, 29 serious foreign criminals were flown to Jamaica on a chartered flight. The crimes committed by the individuals include murder, rape and serious violence. The total combined sentence of their crimes is over 150 years’ imprisonment.

“The law requires that we seek to deport foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in the UK. This ensures we keep the public safe.”

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