The British government is preparing to deport a number of Jamaican nationals who arrived as children, reneging on a previous agreement to not remove people who came to the UK before the age of 12.
At least 34 people are due to board a charter flight to Jamaica on 11 August 2021, many of whom have lived in the UK from childhood and have little to no ties to their place of birth.
The Movement for Justice campaign (MFJ) has said that it intends to investigate the case of every individual deportee; so far having collected detailed information on 10 of the affected. Of those surveyed, the MFJ found that 5 had arrived in the UK before turning 12, with 9 having lived in the UK for more than 20 years. Campaigners have also raised concerns about the children of deportees, with 23 set to lose their fathers should the flight go ahead as planned.
One of those due to be on next week’s flight arrived in the UK at the age of 2 and is being deported for a drug offence. Currently held in Colnbrook immigration removal centre, he said that:
“I’m not really a foreign criminal because I’ve spent all my life here. Everything I learned, I learned in England”
In July of this year, information obtained through an FOI request by The Guardian revealed that people from black-majority former British colonies, such as Jamaica, are disproportionately targeted for deportation if they commit crimes.
Bella Sankey, Director of Detention Action, said “The Home Office claims its deportation system is not discriminatory, but these statistics reveal the truth. As we’ve long suspected, black-majority, former British colonies like Nigeria, Ghana and Jamaica are targeted.”
“The Jamaican government should insist the UK upholds its agreement to stop deporting this group,” Sankey said,
“There is no valid reason for this inhumane practice.”
Bishop Desmond Jaddoo, chair of the Windrush National Organisation, said that previous and prospective deportations have eroded trust and confidence in the government, with continued removals likely to further alienate Windrush communities.
“I believe the British government are disregarding family lives. I understand people have committed crimes, but they are being punished twice,” he said. “they have served their time in prison, many have gone back to their families and children, some have spent years out of prison, and then they’re deported”
The Home Office has argued that the removal of “foreign offenders” is a priority and that those with no right to remain in the UK and have refused or failed to leave voluntarily should be deported immediately.
A spokesperson said: “We make no apology for seeking to remove those with no right to remain in the UK and dangerous foreign criminals.
Deporting individuals who have lived in the UK since childhood is a cruel and callous act. The Home Office must ensure that they do not punish offenders twice and fully observe their agreement with the Jamaican government.