Government defends mass deportation flight to Jamaica amid backlash from MPs

Minister defends deportation of around 50 Jamaicans – many of whom have been in UK for many years and have British children – as 170 cross-party MPs call on prime minister to halt charter flight

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Monday 10 February 2020 12:58
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Government defends mass deportation flight to Jamaica amid backlash from MPs

The government has said it will push ahead with a charter flight removing around 50 people to Jamaica despite widespread demands for the mass deportation to be called off.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak insisted that those set to be forcibly removed on Tuesday – on the second charter flight to the country since the Windrush scandal – had committed “very serious offences” such as rape and murder, and their deportations were “reasonable”.

However, it has emerged that in a number of cases those facing deportation have committed less serious crimes such as drug supply, GBH or joint-enterprise crimes, often only once and many years ago – raising questions around whether their removal is proportionate.

The Home Office would not release any breakdown on the nature of offences committed by those scheduled to be on the flight.

Many of the deportees have also been in the UK for decades and have children here – with campaigners estimating that at least 41 British children are at risk of losing their fathers as a result of the charter flight.

In one case, The Independent revealed that Reshawn Davis, 30, who has been in the UK since the age of 11 and has a six-month-old British daughter, is set to be removed on the basis that he was convicted for robbery 10 years ago under the now-unlawful “joint enterprise” rule – for which he spent two months in prison.

More than 170 cross-party MPs have written a letter calling on the prime minister to halt the flight until the publication of the Windrush lessons learned review – of which a draft leaked to the media last week said ministers should consider ending the practice of deporting people who arrived in the UK as children.

The letter also demands that people set to be removed are provided with effective access to justice, after it emerged that a mobile phone outage at Heathrow removal centres meant detainees were struggling to pursue challenges against their removal directions.

Speaking to Sky News on Monday, Mr Sunak defended the flight, insisting it was “right” and the British public would expect foreign national offenders to be deported.

“Many of these people have committed crimes such as manslaughter, rape, other very serious offences. It's reasonable, it's proportionate, and something the British people would expect us to do for foreign criminals who have committed very serious crimes who should be sent back to their countries where they have a right to reside elsewhere," he said.

When asked about the case of Tajay Thompson, who is facing deportation after serving half of a 15-month sentence in 2015 for possessing class A drugs with intent to supply at 17, Mr Sunak said he was not familiar with the case but insisted “all due process will have been followed”.

MPs Nadia Whittome and Dawn Butler raise point of status of people on next week’s deportation flight to Jamaica

Labour MP Nadia Whittome, who organised the letter protesting against the charter flight, said: “The fact is that many of the individuals in question have lived in the UK since they were children and at least 41 British children are now at risk of losing their fathers through this charter flight.

“The government risks repeating the mistakes of the Windrush scandal unless it cancels this flight and others like it until the Windrush Lessons Learned Review has been published and its recommendations implemented.”

Labour MP David Lammy said it was "scandalous" that the government was pushing ahead with the charter flight "despite knowing the Windrush Lessons Learned Review suggests many of these men should not be deported".

He added: "We know that many of those scheduled to be deported came to the UK as children as young as two, five, seven and 11. Many of those scheduled to be on this flight are not hardened criminals, but one-time drug offenders."

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