A report by Robert Booth for London’s Guardian.
Government plans to restart deportation charter flights to Jamaica as early as this week have been attacked as “brutal” and “a scandal” by leading Labour politicians.
The Home Office said a flight to the island will take off in the coming weeks carrying out the enforced removals of foreign national offenders. About 50 people could leave as soon as Tuesday, according to reports. They are said to include people who came to the UK as children and parents with British children.
The charter flight will be the first since March 2017, before the Windrush scandal when it emerged dozens of people had been wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office.
A spokesman for the Home Office confirmed the plan.
“The UK, like many other countries, uses charter flights to return people to their country of origin where they no longer have a right to remain,” he said. “The majority of those being returned are returned on scheduled, commercial flights but this isn’t always an option, especially where the individual may be a foreign national offender.”
David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, said the deportation charter was an insult to the victims of the Windrush scandal.
“Britain stopped deporting British criminals to Australia in 1868,” he told the Guardian. “This forced repatriation is a scandal in itself, but to re-commence it before the compensation scheme for the Home Office’s previous abuses has been rolled out is an insult to the victims who have already been falsely deported or detained by their own government.
“I have met many Windrush citizens forced into petty crime precisely because of the government’s hostile environment outrageously stripping them of their rights to work, healthcare, housing and benefits.”
The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott MP, called for full transparency over the “brutal” chartered flight deportations.
“Ministers need to quickly confirm whether these individuals are British citizens,” she told the Independent. “We should not deport our own citizens or deny their rights.”
A Home Office source said it would not deport British citizens. News of the planned deportation reached Jamaica two weeks ago when local media reported that Jamaican officials had been primed to expect the arrival of 50 people on a plane chartered to arrive on 6 February.
One of those believed to be facing deportation is Owen Haisley, a Manchester-based MC and musician who arrived legally in the UK in 1977, with his mother and sister, when he was four years old, according to an online petition demanding an end to the deportation that had been signed by more than 3,000 people by 3pm on Sunday.
It said he had three children, all of whom had full British citizenship, and that he was detained on Friday and is being held at Harmondsworth immigration detention centre near Heathrow airport. He is reported to have served a sentence for domestic violence in 2015, before undergoing rehabilitation.
He told Sky News: “I understand the offence, and I brought this on myself. What I don’t understand is the Home Office saying my children will do better without me, that they’d be better off only seeing me over Skype. It’s not right. People are being deported and taken away from their families.”
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said he would write to the home secretary, Sajid Javid, on Monday about Haisley’s case.
A 23-year-old from Wolverhampton who served a two-year sentence for a drug offence is also expected to be on the flight. He told the Independent: “I’m in shock at the moment. I’m scared. I don’t know anyone in Jamaica. Who will I stay with? How will I get income?”
In December, the government announced a hardship fund to provide up to £5,000 to members of the Windrush generation who were wrongly targeted. It came ahead of a planned full compensation scheme for victims of the hostile environment policy.