Flight Deportations to Jamaica Before the Holidays
Numerous black children in the United Kingdom risk having a fatherless Christmas holiday full of fear uncertainty and heartbreak as the Home Office — the government’s ministerial department responsible for visa and immigration, security, and law and order, has plans to charter a deportation flight to Jamaica on the same day England emerges from their second month-long Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, December 2.
In a move that many activists, legal authorities and even former targets with firsthand experience are labelling as institutionalised racism and unlawful.
Stats and Disparities
Under UK law, non-British citizens who are convicted of a crime and sentenced to 12 or more months in prison can be eligible for deportation. Since January 2019, the Home Office has already deported over 6,400 foreign criminals from the UK.
As research published earlier this year by the Sentencing Council found that black men were about 1.4 times more likely than white men to receive a custodial sentence for drug offences, the pattern of conviction bias along racial lines could also put black families at a higher risk of being torn apart by deportation.
Upon journalistic inquiry by various local media outlets, it has not been clearly communicated by the Home Office just how many people scheduled to be deported were in detention or the details of the supposed crimes of each detainee.
The Movement for Justice by any means necessary (MFJ) which seeks to put an end to systematic racism and scapegoating of immigrants, the demonisation of the Muslim community, and to obtain justice for the poor and oppressed, say that according to their closer examination of the details history of the detainees six were convicted of drug offences and two for possessing a weapon.
Zita Holbourne, a co-founder and National Chair of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK, an anti-racism organisation that fights for migrant rights, has publicly expressed to the select media outlets that the HomeOffice has been branding the detainees as “hardened criminals” when many were convicted of minor offences or under questionable circumstances. Some had already served time for their crimes and the deportation appears to be a sort of extra life punishment.
Afro Families are Being Traumatised
Accounts of non-citizen UK residents being deported after fleeing violence 18 years prior, having lived in the UK since their childhood and teen years, are suddenly forced to uproot themselves following 30 years in the UK, afraid to tell sick family members, spouses not knowing how to explain to now fatherless children as they themselves struggle to figure out how to make ends meet following the abrupt departure of their family’s breadwinner.
The director of advocacy group Detention Action, Bella Sankey, has publicly cautioned by way of a post on social media that due to the deportation flight, “tens of children stand to lose a parent.”
BARAC migrant activist Holbourne outlined to journalists of Metro.co.uk the gravity of the situation for these families, "This is happening to people who have been in the UK since they were small children, they have never known anything other than Britain, they have no links to Jamaica," she said. "A large number this time are dads. The human rights of the children are not being taken into account. If you are born in Britain compared to being here since you were young, you are allowed to just serve your time here, rehabilitate and live your life."
The Government's Response
In a statement issued by the Home Office to the media outlet The Independent, the UK governmental ministry said, “We make no apology for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals to keep the public safe. The people being detained for this flight include convicted murderers and rapists."
In addition, following earlier controversial and scrutinised deportations earlier this year that resulted in having to bring some people back to the UK the department claims that none of the people scheduled to be deported to Jamaica is eligible for the Windrush Scheme i.e. not eligible to apply for a document to prove you can live and work in the UK.
Locked Down During a Lockdown
And to further compound the already dire situation, researchers found in a recent study analysing data from local and national sources and commissioned by London Mayor Sadiq Khan that black people were at almost twice (at least 1.9 times more) the risk of dying from coronavirus than white people in the UK.
The deportation flight has been condemned by some local voices as some take issue with the detention and the deportation flight in the midst of a pandemic — especially when considering that the targeted demographic i.e. Jamaicans typically of African descent are believed to be more at risk of coronavirus complications.
The MFI claim eight of the men to be deported have 31 children spanning the ages of 3 and 18. To make matters even worse, coronavirus-prevention restrictions have made it so that families are not permitted to visit their detained loved ones at the centre or even say goodbye before their deportation flight. Likely a much-needed human exchange as detention can be extra challenging for some detainees — according to findings from Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report which revealed the Home Office’s environment as “hostile.”
Many local voices — including the MFI, Black and Asian lawyers for justice (BAME) have urged the Government to stop the Jamaica deportation flight and an ongoing petition to stop mass deportation launched by BARAC’s Zita Holbourne, has already received over 150,000 signatures.