Author: May Bulman
The Jamaican high commissioner has called on the UK government to halt deportations to the country until matters over Windrush and other immigration issues are resolved.
Commissioner Seth George Ramocan told relatives of people placed on a recent charter flight to Jamaica that he would be holding talks with his government and the Home Office about the unlawful removal of people who are entitled to be in Britain.
Twenty-nine individuals were deported to Jamaica on 6 February in a move that was described as a “slap in the face” for Britain’s Caribbean community, 10 months after the Windrush scandal broke last April.
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It has since emerged that – while the home secretary claimed all deportees had been found guilty of “very serious crimes” such as murder and rape – the majority had been convicted of lesser crimes such as drug offences and dangerous driving.
Many had also come to Britain as children, and some had children of their own who were born in the UK.
During a highly charged meeting at the Jamaican embassy on Thursday, parents, children and partners of those deported, and those who remain at risk of deportation, gave emotional accounts of losing their loved ones and their fears for the future.
The mother of one man on the flight explained how her son had arrived in Jamaica with “no one to care for him”.
“He came here when he was 11. All of our children who came here when they were young should be here. This is degrading. Our children need to come back,” she said.
A girl aged 12 told of the traumatising effect of witnessing immigration officers “break down” the door to her family door at 5am to arrest her father, who narrowly avoided deportation earlier this month.
“Having to say bye to my dad when he’s in handcuffs just hurts my heart. My dad is an innocent man and he has done his time so there is no need for him to be re-detained again and again,” she said.
Speaking at the meeting after hearing the personal accounts, the high commissioner said: “We need to look into whether people are descendants of the Windrush generations, and know that the lessons learned team have done their work.
“All of that is in process right now and I think it is only reasonable that we allow the process to be completed, because we may very well be deporting people who are entitled to be here,” he said.
“We also need to look at cases of people who have been here since they were children and people who have mental issues. These should all be considered. We need to look concretely at what happens in these cases.”
Lawyers and campaigners called on the high commissioner to do more to coordinate with the Home Office ahead of removal or deportation flights to ensure that due process is followed.
They also highlighted that while the Home Office considers Jamaica to be a “safe country”, deportees often face attacks on returning to the island because they are immediately perceived as serious criminals.
An unknown but significant number of those who were due to be deported were granted a last-minute reprieve following widespread media attention and intervention from lawyers.
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 law requires that we seek to deport foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in the UK. This ensures we keep the public safe.”