In an opinion piece in The Guardian, Zita Holbourne says, “Stop the new deportation flights to Jamaica. They shouldn’t be happening. [. . .] The government has learned nothing from the Windrush scandal, and must cancel Wednesday’s flight.” Read more at The Guardian.
Given the justified outrage there was when the Windrush scandal was exposed, many Britons may be surprised to know that the government is planning a secret flight to forcibly remove more than 50 people to Jamaica on Wednesday. The last flight took place in 2016. Then, more than 50 people were each shackled and cuffed to two security guards throughout the entire journey. Although for years I and other campaigners have been campaigning against such deportations and other aspects of the government’s hostile environment, it was the reporting on cases that became known as the Windrush scandal that finally drew attention to the gross injustices faced by many of that generation.
In light of the scandal, a planned charter flight to Jamaica last spring was cancelled. Charter flights to Jamaica (but not other countries) were suspended. Until now.
The situation is that many are still facing Windrush-related issues, that neither the results of the Windrush compensation scheme consultation nor the consultation into “lessons learned” have been published. The government says dozens of people are awaiting decisions from the Windrush taskforce, although that might be an underestimate. It is shocking that the government is planning to deport at least 50 people in such a heartless, cruel and brutal way, tearing people away from their families, many of whom have been in the UK since they were small children, have no family ties in Jamaicaand will be destitute and isolated.
Among those due to be deported this week is Twane Morgan. He was detained a couple of weeks ago while signing in with the Home Office. He has been held at Colnbrook immigration removal centre in London ever since. Morgan is one of a number of Commonwealth soldiers who have served in the British army to be caught up in this. He should be exempt from removal; those who have served in the army are entitled to become British citizens. Morgan enrolled in the army in his early 20s and served two tours in Afghanistan. He was medically discharged after three years with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. He received no aftercare, was denied NHS services, was deemed to be an overstayer and developed bipolar disorder. It was not until 2017, 10 years after he was discharged, that he was able to see a psychiatrist, who diagnosed him as having complex trauma PTSD.
Morgan has five young children and has been with his current partner for eight years. His eldest son told me that he needs his dad in his life. Because of his conditions Morgan also needs the care of his family in the UK. He has no family in Jamaica. The treatment of Commonwealth soldiers is akin to that of the Windrush generation – they should not be facing deportation.
Of those booked on the flight we know of one who was actually born in the UK but whose mother is from the Windrush generation. There is one who has been in the UK for 41 years and arrived at the age of four. Eleven had indefinite leave to remain in the UK already before they were targeted for deportation. Many of them have never visited Jamaica since leaving and have nobody there. One young blind man has been told that he can be cared for by his elderly grandmother, despite her having medical evidence to the contrary. More than 40 children will be separated from a deported parent. Again people are being told by the British government that they can parent their children by Skype.
Those targeted for removal have been branded criminals by the Home Office (an accusation with which Jamaican authorities have been complicit, leading to screaming headlines in the Jamaican press of a “convict plane”). Some have been criminalised by virtue of their immigration status. Those who have committed crimes have been punished (in many cases years ago), been rehabilitated and are trying to live their lives. Morgan himself was sentenced to six years in prison after stabbing a man as he defended himself from an hammer attack while under the influence of alcohol. He was released after three years.
This is a double punishment. If they had British citizenship they would not be targeted in this way. The government has set criteria on what level of crimes and sentences will be punishable by deportation, even though people have already served their time. One Rastafarian man is being deported for possession of cannabis.
What really needs to stop post-Windrush is the inhumane removal of human beings, punishing entire families and failing to learn any lessons. We have called for an independent public inquiry into the Windrush scandal. Until there is one, there should be no such life-destroying deportations. A number of people in the midst of the Windrush scandal lost their lives either through taking them, or because of the stress and strain they underwent fighting for justice.
If the government is serious about learning lessons then it must start by stopping this flight.
Zita Holbourne is national co-chair of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts UK and the national vice president of the PCS union.