Exclusive: Around 50 people set to be deported on charter plane – many in UK since they were children – in what campaigners describe as ‘slap in the face’ for Britain’s Caribbean community
- May BulmanSocial Affairs Correspondent @maybulmanDozens of Caribbean nationals are set to be deported on the first charter flight to Jamaica since the Windrush scandal erupted.Around 50 people are set to be removed to the island in the coming days, in what campaigners say is a “slap in the face” for Britain’s Caribbean community following the revelation last April that many among them had been wrongly detained and deported.
A number of men currently detained in Harmondsworth immigration center told The Independent they had been told by staff that they will be placed on a flight to Jamaica on 6 February. A Home Office spokesperson confirmed that a charter flight would be departing in the “coming weeks”.All of those set to be removed on the flight are said to have criminal convictions, but all have served their sentences in UK jails and campaigners argue that their removal – which for many means returning alone to a country they left as young children – constitutes a “brutal double punishment”.The last charter flight to Jamaica was in March 2017. Another was scheduled to leave last April, days after the Windrush scandal broke, with a 63-year-old grandmother among the deportees, but it was canceled for reasons the Home Office didn’t disclose.
One man set to be removed next week, Owen Haisely, has lived in the UK for 41 years and has three young British children. The 45-year-old was convicted for a domestic abuse incident in 2015, for which he spent a year in jail. He was arrested and detained while signing on with the Home Office last Friday.
The Manchester resident, whose great aunt is part of the Windrush generation, said he worried about the future of his sons – aged five and seven – without their father present.
“I did wrong – I deserved to be locked up for that. And I’ve done my sentence. I did all the rehabilitation classes, I did anger management, I did restorative justice. I used my time positively and constructively,” he said.
“I’m worried for my boys. They say I can keep in contact with my children via Skype – how can you say that? Problems happen when families get split up or fathers get taken away. Children are more likely to get into trouble.
“My ex-partner doesn’t want me to be deported. I go to school meetings, nativity plays, I collect them from football. They are all going through a very rough time with my immigration issue hanging over them.”
Mr Haisley, who spent 12 years as youth workshop leader at a music project in Manchester, said he was “terrified” to go back to a country he doesn’t know.
“I let myself down in a big way, but while offenders with a British passport can go to prison, repeat offend and get given chance after chance, I’ve not even been given a second chance,” he added.
Another man scheduled to be on the flight is Divonte Demetri Fyffe, 23, who has been in Britain since he was three. He committed a drug offence at the age of 18 for which he served a two-year sentence, and on his release was told he no longer had a right to remain in the UK.
The Wolverhampton resident, who was detained last week, said: “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?
“I made a stupid mistake when I was 18. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was in the wrong crowd. I did my jail time. I stopped hanging around with those people. I haven’t reoffended. I wanted to make a change.
“But I was told I couldn’t work or study, and now this is happening. I made one mistake and I’m still paying for it.”
A government commissioned report published in July stated the removal of people “who were more British than foreign” was “deeply troubling” and advised that routine deportations of people who had been brought up in the UK should end.
Former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw, the author of the report, wrote: “For low-risk offenders, it seems entirely disproportionate to tear them away from their lives, families and friends in the UK, and send them to countries where they may not speak the language or have any ties.”
Responding to the news of the impending charter flight, Diane Abbott MP, shadow home secretary, said “The Tories’ hostile environment policies continue to split up families, with the use of these brutal chartered flight deportations.
“We need full transparency. We should not deport our own citizens or deny their rights.”
Information on those facing removal, gathered by campaign group Movement for Justice, indicates that seven of them came to the UK as children, eight have British-born children, and 11 have relatives in the Windrush generation.
One woman set to be removed is said to be a grandmother to 10 British children, while another deportee reportedly has a grandfather who served in the British Army.
Karen Doyle, national organiser of Movement for Justice, said: “Trying to restart mass deportations to Jamaica while the Windrush generation have yet to receive a penny, and many are still waiting months later for decisions, is a slap in the face for the Jamaican diaspora community in the UK.
“These people are being subject to a brutal double punishment, many for crimes that the British public would not consider ‘serious’, drunken fights and driving offences.
“Most of the people due to be on this charter flight have no one to support them and nowhere to go. Families are being ripped apart by the UK government’s drive to meet migration targets and maintain the constant scapegoating of immigrants.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “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.
“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.