UK Politics

Windrush: 170 MPs call on PM to halt Jamaica deportation flight

Protest against deportation flights Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protests against deportation flights have been held outside the Jamaican embassy in London

More than 170 MPs have urged the PM to halt plans to deport 50 people to Jamaica on Tuesday until a review into the Windrush scandal is published.

Their call comes after a leaked draft of the report said the government should consider ending the deportation of foreign-born offenders who came to the UK as children.

Tuesday's flight is expected to include a man who moved to the UK aged five.

The PM has said it is right that foreign-born offenders are deported.

Boris Johnson told MPs last week: "I think the whole House will understand that the people of this country will think it right to send back foreign national offenders."

The Home Office has previously said the flight was "specifically for removing foreign criminals" and it included "people convicted of manslaughter, rape, violent crime and dealing Class A drugs". Number 10 has said all the people on the flight have sentences of 12 months or more.

Meanwhile, Duncan Lewis, a law firm that is representing some of the people on the flight, told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme that they are launching judicial review proceedings.

The firm says the flight's passengers include people who are "potential victims of trafficking, groomed as children by drugs gangs running county lines networks and later pursued in the criminal justice system as serious offenders".

The flight from the UK to Kingston is due to leave on 11 February.

The group of cross-party MPs say in a letter that they have "grave concerns" about the Home Office's deportation plan.

"Not only is there an unacceptable risk of removing anyone with a potential Windrush claim, but there has been a failure by the government to remedy the causes of the Windrush scandal," it said.

"It is, therefore, crucial that all further deportations are cancelled until the long-awaiting Lessons Learned Review is published, and its recommendations implemented."

The Windrush scandal saw many of those who had arrived in Caribbean countries between 1958 and 1971 detained or deported despite having the right to live in the UK for decades.

The fallout prompted criticism of the government's "hostile environment" approach to immigration and led to the resignation of Amber Rudd as home secretary in 2018.

Labour MP Nadia Whittome, who organised the letter, said: "The fact is that many of the individuals in question have lived in the UK since they were children and at least 41 British children are now at risk of losing their fathers through this charter flight.

"The government risks repeating the mistakes of the Windrush scandal unless it cancels this flight and others like it."

Father-of-five Howard Ormsby is among those who are due to be deported on Tuesday.

He was jailed for 18 months after he was convicted of possession with intent to supply class A drugs and he was released in December.

"I came here at the age of 15 with my older sister and I've been here 18 years of my life," the 32-year-old said, speaking to the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire show from a detention centre in Harmondsworth, near London Heathrow.

"I've never tried to deny the fact I've made a mistake, but everyone has a chance to right their wrongs.

"I have all my family here - I have no one in Jamaica.

"It just seems weird that you're trying to send me back to a country I do not know."

He said he believed that if he is sent to Jamaica he would be killed because of gang violence there.

'Made a mistake'

Tajay Thompson is also facing deportation to Jamaica. He served half of a 15-month sentence in 2015 after he was convicted of possessing class A drugs with intent to supply at 17.

"I feel like I was born here. Jamaica is not my country," Mr Thompson said, adding that he had no links to the Caribbean nation, which he had only visited twice since coming to the UK aged five.

"It's not like I'm a rapist or a murderer, I've made a mistake when I was 17 and it's now going to affect my whole life."

The 23-year-old, who is living in south London, added that he was groomed into a gang as a teenager.

His mother Carline Angus told BBC Newsnight last week: "My son came here when he was five, so why is he in this category [to be deported]? I think he should be given a chance."

Image caption Labour MP Nadia Whittome organised the letter signed by cross-party MPs

Labour shadow immigration minister Bell Ribeiro-Addy said the flight was "the most brutal and inhumane way to remove people from this country".

Labour MP David Lammy told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it was "wrong and frankly scandalous to continue in this way given the scandal that we experienced just two years ago".

But Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak told Sky News that those being forcibly removed had committed "very serious offences" and their deportations were "reasonable".

The Tory MP said he believed the flight was "right" and the British public would expect foreign national offenders to be deported.

"What that plane is about is deporting foreign national criminals. Many of these people have committed crimes such as manslaughter, rape, other very serious offences," he said.

"It's reasonable, it's proportionate, and something the British people would expect us to do for foreign criminals who have committed very serious crimes who should be sent back to their countries where they have a right to reside elsewhere."

Asked about Mr Thompson's case, Mr Sunak said he was not familiar with it, but added that "all due process will have been followed".

Sajid Javid commissioned the Windrush review in July 2018, while home secretary, to avoid any future repeat of the scandal.

A draft of the report, written by Wendy Williams - an inspector of constabulary - in June last year, says: "Government should review its policy and approach to FNOs [foreign national offenders], if necessary through primary legislation. It should consider ending all deportation of FNOs where they arrived in the UK as children (say, before age of 13).

"Alternatively, deportation should only be considered in the most severe cases."

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