I recently wrote to Kevin Foster, the Minister for Immigration, to express my deep concerns about the deportation charter flight scheduled for the 2 December. You can see the full text of my letter below.
I have been contacted by a number of my constituents regarding the deportation charter flight to Jamaica scheduled for the 2 December 2020.
I was very concerned to learn of these plans, and I do not believe this flight should have gone ahead. Mass deportation by charter flight is a brutal and inhumane way to remove people from this country, and I have repeatedly opposed it over recent years. Deportations like this often lack due process, and demonstrate little regard for deportee safety, and even less for the right to a family life.
The Windrush scandal continues to cast a long shadow over the British criminal justice system. As you will know, the Lessons Learned Review, published on the 18 March, found that the Home Office had displayed ‘an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation within the department, which are consistent with some elements of the definition of institutional racism.’
I welcome the Home Secretary’s pledge to drive cultural change in your Department, alongside the publication of the response of the Home Office to the Lessons Learned Review.
These are necessary steps, but until these changes have been fully realised and demonstrated, my constituents and I do not have confidence in these deportation procedures. I remain concerned that it could be the case, for some of those who have been deported, that their eligibility to apply for British citizenship was compromised by confusion over their Windrush relatives’ immigration status.
Since the Lessons Learned Review was published, as you will know, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has found that the Home Office failed to uphold its Public Sector Equality Duty, and that there was “a clear failure by the Home Office to develop and implement immigration policies that were fit for purpose for the Black people affected by them.” I know that work is now underway to respond to the EHRC recommendations, however I believe that strong concerns will remain about the propriety of these deportation flights while the recommendations remain unimplemented.
I was pleased to read reports that the Home Office has reached an agreement with Jamaica that children who arrived in the UK under the age of 12 years old would not be deported on this flight. As you will know, I have previously raised concerns about the deportation of those who arrived in this country as children, and if these reports are correct I am surprised and disappointed that the Home Office is not recognising the full age range of children when these decisions are made. I understand a further group were taken off the flight at the last minute after concerns were raised that they may have been victims of modern slavery. Whilst I welcome this development, it is highly concerning that it has apparently again taken legal challenges to force the Government’s hand, and I would be grateful for information about any policy changes that have been made.
I am also concerned that this charter flight was scheduled at all during this global health pandemic. The national lockdown may have meant that the process was harder to scrutinise, raising the possibility that access to justice for some of those deported may have been limited. I am concerned that the people who were on this flight may have had their health compromised during, and as a consequence of, this deportation.
I would be grateful if you could respond to my above concerns, cancel future deportation charter flights until the recommendations of the Lessons Learned Review and the EHRC report are implemented, and ensure that any future deportation charter flights exclude those who arrived in this country as children and victims of modern slavery.
I look forward to hearing from you.