UK deportation flight greeted with suspicion in Jamaica

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A report by Nick Davis for London’s Guardian.

Outside Harman Barracks, a colonial-era base for the Jamaica Constabulary Force in Kingston, Lamar was waiting for the release of his brother, one of the 29 people who arrived on the island on Wednesday on a British deportation flight.

He said the press in Jamaica had been unfair to the deportees. “They treat everybody just like criminals, just the same. But not everybody is a criminal, sometimes people get mixed up in little different things but that doesn’t make you bad.”

He called up a video on his phone of the Labour MP David Lammy criticising the deportations in the Commons. “He [is trying to] tell them it’s a racist thing they’re doing,” Lamar said.

Coverage of the arrival had put local people on edge. The UK Home Office said that among the deportees, one had been convicted of murder, four of various sexual offences including rape, 14 of drugs offences, six of violent crimes including grievous bodily harm and three of firearms and weapon offences. They were said to include people who came to the UK as children and parents with British children.

This was the first flight from the UK since the Windrush scandal, but deportation flights are an established issue here. “There’s a flight that comes here every last Thursday of the month from the US,” said Oswald Dawkins, who runs the National Organisation of Deported Migrants. “The stigma [around deportees] is less so now than it used to be years ago. For one, the government was one of the drivers for that. The majority do not have support. We can refer them to a shelter – this is someone who says they have no family, we’d refer them to short-term emergency accommodation.”

Most of the men leaving Harman Barracks hid their faces with T-shirts and hats, but one seemed happy to be back and greeted friends before going to a bar next door.

“I’ve had a drink, it’s great to be here despite them kidnapping us out of England wrongfully,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “I feel glad to be here because it’s 19 years I’ve not been back in Jamaica. I feel so good, the only thing I miss is my kids, they’re in England, and my wife and certain lifestyle, but Jamaica bless.”

Asked about negative local media coverage of their arrival, he said: “Depends on the area where you live. In my area, people who get deported, it’s not negative.”

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