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Home Office deportation flight to Jamaica leaves UK despite outrage and court ruling

Charter flight goes ahead with fewer than half of those government intended to deport on board after court ruled they were denied access to justice

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 11 February 2020 09:52 GMT
Sajid Javid defends government's decision to deport more than fifty convicted criminals to Jamaica

A deportation flight to Jamaica has left the UK despite widespread outrage and a court ruling which meant dozens of those scheduled to be removed were granted last-minute reprieve.

Downing Street said 17 people were on the flight while 25 remained in the UK because of a Court of Appeal ruling.

On Monday night a judge ordered the Home Office not to deport men who had not been granted adequate access to legal advice in the Heathrow detention centres. They had been denied access to working sim cards following a mobile phone signal outage that prevented them from consulting lawyers.

The department attempted to get the ruling overturned in the hours before the flight but its application for reconsideration was rejected by the Court of Appeal shortly before 1am on Tuesday.

Charities and campaign groups said a number of detainees from Harmondsworth removal centre – one of the Heathrow facilities affected by the mobile outage – were driven to an airport despite the Court of Appeal ruling, but then not put on the flight and driven back.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said those who avoided removal are being held in removal centres but are now able to launch applications for release on bail, but that the government would be "urgently appealing" against the court decision.

Reshawn Davis, one detainee in Colnbrook removal centre – the other Heathrow facility affected by the signal problems – told The Independent on Tuesday morning that he was not taken to the flight and remained in the centre.

He said a number of fellow detainees were no longer in the facility, but he did not know where they had been taken.

Mr Davis, 30, who came to the UK aged 11 and has a six-month-old daughter, said he felt relieved that he wasn’t put on the flight but added that he was still fearful as he hadn’t been given any information on why and whether he was still liable to be removed

“I was awake most of the night. I kept hearing people walk outside my room and I thought they were going to come and take me,” he said. “I don’t know how to feel. I’m happy, but my emotions are all over the place. I still don’t know what’s going on.”

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that those deported had been sentenced to a total of 75 years in prison for offences including rape, firearms, ABH, GBH and supplying class A drugs.

Protest outside Downing Street over planned Jamaica deportations

“We bitterly regret this decision which prevents the removal from our country of foreign criminals convicted of rape, manslaughter, sexual offences, violence and drug offences which spread misery across our communities," they said in a statement.

“The legal process for removing these offenders, which has included repeated appeals and judicial reviews, has already cost the British public tens of thousands of pounds. The taxpayer will now be left with an even bigger bill and the prospect of convicts who are considered to pose a threat to the UK being granted bail while this matter is resolved.

“We make no apology whatsoever for seeking to remove serious foreign national offenders. We will be urgently appealing.“

It is understood that government lawyers argued during the appeal case that the detainees were offered alternative means of communicating with legal teams during a mobile phone outage, including alternative SIM cards being offered on request, landline access and Internet access.

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