Man with right to British citizenship facing deportation to Jamaica

Home Office accused of ‘ignoring’ rules of Windrush scheme by trying to forcibly remove father-of-two

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Monday 09 August 2021 18:26
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A man who has been in the UK for nearly 30 years and is believed to have the right to British citizenship under the Windrush scheme is facing deportation to Jamaica in two days.

Sanjay McLean, 41, moved to Britain aged 12 in 1993 to join his father, Alpheus Thompson, a British citizen who first came to the country in the 1950s as part of the Windrush generation.

Under the rules of Home Office’s Windrush scheme, which was set up in 2018 after it emerged thousands of Commonwealth citizens in the UK were being wrongly deprived of their rights, Mr McLean is eligible for British citizenship, according to his lawyers.

But he is one of dozens of people who have been served removal directions on a controversial charter flight to Jamaica on Wednesday.

This is despite repeated claims by the Home Office that deportees are not eligible for support or compensation from the Windrush schemes and have no entitlement to British citizenship.

Mr McLean, who was detained in Harmondsworth removal centre at the end of May and only obtained legal representation three days ago, attended secondary school and college in the UK before working in the care sector and later as a painter and decorator.

The Gloucestershire resident has two British sons, aged 17 and seven, whom he does not live with but sees regularly.

In 2014, Mr McLean was convicted for Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) following a dispute with his then-partner and sentenced to 18 months in jail. After serving his sentence, he was issued with a deportation order.

His ex-partner, the mother to his youngest child, who did not want to be named, told The Independent she maintained a good relationship with him and said she thought it was wrong that he was facing removal.

“The incident was seven years ago. We’ve both grown up a lot. We didn’t have any previous domestic violence incidents. It was very out of the blue. Things just got out of hand,” she said.

“Looking back now, there are things I could have done differently, and I think he feels the same way. We could have approached things differently. I’m OK, I’m fine, I don’t fear him or anything. I wasn’t scared.”

Addressing the impact his deportation would have on their seven-year-old son, she said: “Sanjay is a good dad. He’s a caring person. I want my son to have stability. If he gets deported, how will he see him? He has a good relationship with his dad. Kids need a mum and a dad.

“It’s wrong. The crime happened to me – and I’m saying this: he served his time and he cannot be punished for the rest of his life. I know he realises that it was wrong, he went to prison. It’s just not fair.”

Mr McLean, who has visited Jamaica only twice since he moved to the UK aged 12, most recently in 2013, told The Independent: “I have no one back there. I’m scared. I’m scared of the unknown, the uncertainty and what may happen to me. I have nowhere to go back to.

“My life is here, in England. I’ve got my family and my sons to think about. It’s devastating to think about what may happen to me. I can see from reports on the internet that Jamaica is a violent place.”

The 41-year-old said he already felt “victimised” by the Home Office after, following the death of his father last month, he was prevented from attending his funeral, despite the fact that detainees can be temporarily released in compassionate circumstances.

“I had to deal with all the emotions and they turned a blind eye to it. I didn’t get any support or anything. I didn’t get to see my dad, to take part in carrying his casket or anything. It hurts a lot,” he said.

“I served my time and completed my probation period peacefully, no problems. What more can I do? I’ve done everything in my power to prove to them that I’ve changed.”

Naga Kandiah, a public law and human rights solicitor who started representing Mr McLean on a pro bono basis last week, said his was a “textbook example” Windrush case and accused the Home Office of “ignoring” the rules of the Windrush scheme.

Mr Kandiah submitted an application to the Windrush scheme on behalf of Mr McLean on Saturday stating that he was “born a British citizen in accordance with the British Nationality Act 1948 (as in force at the time of birth) and the British Nationality Act 1981”.

“Sadly the Home Office has ignored the rules of the Windrush scheme and labelled Sanjay as a foreign criminal,” he told The Independent.

“In doing so, the Home Office displayed particular inhumanity by denying Sanjay the basic right to attend his father’s funeral, despite the father being a British citizen and Sanjay being a British national, with the funeral taking place in the UK.”

It comes amid reports of a Covid outbreak in Colnbrook removal centre, where many of those set to be deported on Wednesday are currently detained, with at least one individual who is due to be on the flight having tested positive for the virus.

One detainee facing removal on Wednesday, Javaun Simpson, told The Independent that everyone on his unit, including four Jamaican nationals, were told on Monday that they would have to self-isolate for seven days.

“We’re having our lunch, dinner and breakfast served on the unit. I thought this would mean the flight won’t go ahead, but we’ve heard nothing about that,” he said.

Karen Doyle, of the campaign group Movement for Justice, said the fact that the Home Office still planned to go ahead with the removal flight demonstrated “how little regard they have for the lives of not just the detainees but their own staff and airline staff”.

Ms Doyle, who came into contact with Mr McLean and put him in touch with the lawyer, said his case showed how the nature of mass deportation charter flights and the “complications” of British nationality law meant Windrush children could “easily be swept up for deportation”.

“The government has time and time again promised that there are no Windrush or British citizens on these flights,” she added.

“This should send a clear message to the Jamaican authorities and the Jamaican community that the Home Office is not willing or capable of preventing another Windrush injustice. They can and must make a stand and refuse to accept these flights.”

A Home Office spokesperson declined to comment on Mr McLean’s case, but said: “Those being deported will have been provided with the opportunity to raise claims prior to their deportation, and no one on the flight will be a British citizens, British nationals or member of the Windrush generation.”

They said all claims raised were fully considered and decided upon before deportation including, where applicable, via the courts.

Regarding concerns around Covid, they denied that there was a coronavirus outbreak at Colnbrook removal centre but confirmed that two residents had tested positive.

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