UK bid to deport 50 Jamaicans fails after last-minute legal appeals

Human rights campaigners rally outside Downing Street, London, in February 2021. (Photo by PA)

UK efforts to deport Jamaicans from the country have been derailed with last-minute legal appeals.

A Home Office deportation flight, which was originally meant to deport 50 people, left for Jamaica overnight on early Thursday with just seven people on board, after last-minute legal challenges.

About 18 of the legal appeals were made in the 24 hours before departure.

The Home Office, which is responsible for immigration in the UK, has called those deportees “foreign offenders,” people who have come here and committed crimes, and should expect to be removed.

It also added that late legal claims can reduce the value for money of these operations.

According to the British law, persistent offenders or those convicted of serious crimes may be deported where it is deemed “conducive to the public good.”

Meanwhile, campaigners had been trying to stop the flight, saying that the move was unfair and politically-motivated, and some of deportees may have had a right to British citizenship.

Maria Thomas, of Duncan Lewis Solicitors -- UK’s largest legal aid services provider -- said some of the deportees did not fly after claiming that they had the right to stay in the UK as part of the Windrush Scheme, which provides residency rights for many West Indian immigrants and their descendants.

She said that others were not physically and mentally in good health, while two of her young clients had attempted to take their own lives after being held in a government immigration removal center.

Thomas described the practice of removing by way of charter flights as “brutal” and “extremely concerning” adding that “It's an enormous waste of taxpayers' money to charter a plane in these circumstances, particularly in light of an ongoing pandemic.”

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, a human rights organization working on immigration detention, depicted the situation as “complete chaos” and said that the Home Office "hasn't got a clue what it's doing."

A Home Office spokesperson said, "We make no apology for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals."

Home Secretary Priti Patel said her government “uses every means to continue to remove foreign nationals who have committed crimes.”

Last year, 50 Britons of Jamaican descent were also forcibly removed, many of whom grew up in the UK. The hashtag #Jamaica_50 is still trending.

However, immigrant rights groups, such as the movement for justice, say the move is a reversal of an earlier agreement between the UK and Jamaican governments not to deport people who arrived in the UK as minors.

Rights campaigners believe that the move is purely racist and political, made by a failing government appealing desperately to its racist base.

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