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Labour MP with cross-party support calls on Prime Minister to stop Jamaica deportation flight

A letter signed by over 150 cross-party MPs and Lords including Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP has been sent to the Prime Minister today asking to immediately halt a flight which is seeking to deport 50 individuals to Jamaica.

The Home Office has chartered the flight scheduled for the 11 February 2020 which contains people who have been resident to the UK for decades.

The letter sent today to the Prime Minister by Nadia Whittome MP cites the Windrush scandal, and says there is an “unacceptable risk of removing anyone with a potential Windrush claim” and “that all further deportations are cancelled until the long-awaited Lessons Learned Review is published, and its recommendations implemented.”

Furthermore, the letter demands a publication date for Lessons Learned Review, which was commissioned in the wake of the Windrush scandal. In reference to the ‘hostile environment’, a leaked copy of the report states that the Government should end its policy which punishes foreign-born individuals who came to the UK as children.

Nadia Whittome, Labour MP for Nottingham East, who raised the deportations as an issue during Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday, said:

“The Prime Minister’s answer to my question was woefully inadequate. 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 until the Windrush Lessons Learned Review has been published and its recommendations implemented.”

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Shadow Immigration Minister and Labour MP for Streatham, said:

“Mass deportation by charter flight is the most brutal and inhumane way to remove people from this country. It often lacks due process, has little regard for deportees safety, and even less for their right to a family life.

“Both the Home Office and the Prime Minister do not appear to even have the correct information on those due on the flight.

“We are calling on the Government to halt all charter flight deportations until it publishes its Windrush lessons learned review. After the Windrush scandal, we expect better. But this Government will stop at nothing to maintain its hostile environment.”

The full text of the letter reads:

9 February 2020

Dear Prime Minister,

We, the undersigned, write to you as a group of cross-party parliamentarians to express our grave concern over Home Office plans to deport 50 people to Jamaica by charter flight on 11th February 2020.

Two years ago the Windrush crisis shook the country. In a violation of human rights, the government was found to have been detaining and deporting British citizens and those who had the right to live in the UK for decades.

At the height of the Windrush Scandal, the government suspended charter flights as they could not guarantee that no wrongful deportations would take place.

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

We understand through a leaked version of the review that it recommends revising policy towards FNOs, ending deportation for those who arrived as children and only considering deportation in “the most severe cases”.

Given that the Guardian has reported that the Review is at Maxwellisation stage, which means that the government has it and are now editing it, it seems only reasonable that any further deportations should be stopped until these important recommendations are published and implemented.

We would be grateful if you would, as a matter of urgency, provide answers to the following questions:
vCan the government guarantee the safety of those individuals planned for deportation?

  • Does the government plan to collect data regarding the safety of those who are to be removed?
  • Have each of the individuals expected to board the chartered flight to Jamaica on 11th February had access to legal advice and representation?
  • How many of the individuals expected to board the chartered flight to Jamaica on 11th February have exhausted all avenues of appeal and due process?
  • How many of the individuals expected to board the chartered flight to Jamaica on 11th February have access to a mobile phone?
  • How many of the individuals on this flight have been resident in the UK since they were children?
  • What legal advice the government sought on this proposed action and will you publish this legal advice?
  • At what stage is the Lessons Learned Report and when will it be published?
  • We urge you to take the following actions recommended by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Migrants (JCWI) without delay:

    1. The flight and all future charter flights must be suspended until the Windrush Lessons Learned Review has been published and its recommendations implemented.
    2. The Home Office must immediately provide SIM cards for alternative providers in order to ensure that no one will be removed from the UK without being afforded effective access to legal advice and assistance.
    3. The Home Office must introduce legislation to implement Sir Stephen Shaw’s recommendation that long-term British residents who have been in the UK since childhood should not be subject to the automatic deportation provisions of the UK Borders Act 2007.

    We look forward to your timely response.