LONDON, Sep 06 2016 – Protesters are to gather outside the Jamaican high commission in south-west London to demonstrate against Jamaica’s cooperation with a deportation flight to the country due to take off on Wednesday morning.
Mothers, fathers and grandparents are among those due to be forcibly removed from the UK despite many of them having spent their entire adult lives in Britain. In some cases they are still fighting their immigration cases, activists say.
Critics have raised questions about the tactics used by the Home Office immigration enforcement, which has been accused of “strategically” detaining individuals to fill the flight, without consideration of their circumstances.
The Unity Centre, a Glasgow-based migration support collective, has said in a statement that it has spoken to more than 50 of the passengers booked on to the flight, all of whom came to the UK as children but have failed to regularise their immigration status.
It says all bar one has British children, one has been married to a British national for 12 years, and two are full-time carers to their partners. Many have never been convicted of a criminal offence.
Hilary Brown, managing director of the law firm Virgo Consultancy Services, based in south London, said she had managed to get clients pulled off the flight by filing judicial reviews of the actions taken by the Home Office.
One of those is a woman in her 60s who was married to a British man but whose application for indefinite leave to remain was held up by so much bureaucracy that her husband died before it was completed, Brown said.
After her husband’s death, she was told she no longer had a case to stay, despite having children and grandchildren in the UK. She was seized on Friday at her daughter’s house and taken to immigration detention.
Another Jamaican on the flight is Twane Morgan, 33, from Birmingham, a veteran of the British army who suffers from post-traumatic stress and bipolar disorder after two tours of Afghanistan.
His sister, Tenisha Morgan, said he was detained a fortnight ago after he went to sign on at an immigration centre. He was served with a deportation order three years ago after a conviction for GBH, she said.
“He’s got kids here, he’s got a young baby here [of] four months old,” Tenisha Morgan said. “They are not taking those into consideration. He’s got family here, he’s got people to support him. When he goes to Jamaica he’s going to be a madman on the street. I don’t want to hear that my brother is dead. He’s got no one in Jamaica, totally no one.”
She said her brother’s mental health problems began after his two tours of Afghanistan, in which time he saw friends killed. She believed that the act that led to his conviction was related his mental ill-health. Morgan is reliant on strong injections of sedatives to keep his mental health problems in check, medicines that he would be unable to get in Jamaica, his sister said.
Activists believe this is the first immigration removal flight to Jamaica since November 2014. Brown said it seemed that immigration enforcement was acting quickly in an effort to prevent those being removed from making legal challenges.
“What you can do is go to the high court and challenge the fact that you are not being given an in-country appeal and that in itself is a breach of your human rights,” she said.
“But what they are doing is they are trying to snatch these people away very quickly before the three months [time limit for lodging a judicial review] is up so the lawyers may be trying to gather all of the evidence to make sure the Home Office knows everything … before we’ve gathered that and before the three months is up they will try to put them on the plane.”
Lee Jasper, the veteran black rights activist and former equalities adviser to the mayor of London, wrote a plea to the Jamaican government on the Facebook page for the protest. “The people on that flight have lived in Britain for years. Some have committed criminal offences, most have not. We urge you not to accept this charter flight that constitutes a grave infringement of the human rights of [Jamaicans] living in the UK,” he said.
The Home Office declined to comment on Tuesday evening.