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Jamaica 50: plans for deportations of Black Britons continue as Windrush scandal is invoked

ByShin Woo Kim

Dec 6, 2020

Content Warning: anti-Black immigration policies and deportation

The Home Office planned to deport up to 50 Black British people (termed the ‘Jamaica 50’) to Jamaica on 2 December.

On the day itself, 13 people were deported as last-minute legal intervention prevented 37 people from being deported on the grounds that they were ‘victims of modern slavery’ as it was recognised that they were coerced into doing criminal activity via trafficking.

Many of the 50 people were parents of ‘British children’. Two British children raised a legal challenge on Tuesday evening against the government decision to deport their father to Jamaica, arguing for the removal of any parent from the flight where the interests of the child were not properly assessed. However, the challenge was defeated by the Home Office.

One of the 13 Black people deported seems to not have been granted a Covid test in the UK, only discovering that he contracted Covid by testing positive on his arrival in Jamaica. He is currently being held in a two-week quarantine in a medical facility in Kingston.

The ‘dehumanising’ conditions prior to and during the deportation were criticised by various groups, including Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK, Black public figures and Labour MPs, who all invoked the Windrush scandal.

The Windrush scandal is controversial misconduct that erupted in 2018, when it was revealed that the Home Office detained and deported Black British people of the Windrush generation, who lived and worked in the UK for many years, on the grounds that they were in the UK ‘illegally’. The Windrush generation refers to 492 Black people, many of whom were then children, who were brought from Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to the UK. They were brought in as workers in the 40s right through to the 60s on a ship named the MV Empire Windrush, which inspired the name the Windrush generation.

An individual taken off the flight who was previously detained and threatened with deportation at the end of his two-year sentence claimed that while he never had enough money to proceed with the naturalisation process, he thought that “I was British… As far as I was concerned, this is my country…. Everyone is desperate. There’s no help for people in this situation.”

Prior to the deportation flight, 90 Black public figures such as Naomi Campbell, Thandie Newton, and David Olusoga signed a letter urging airlines not to go ahead with the flight. They wrote that the people being deported had been criminalised for forced labour and that it made no sense to deport them since they hardly knew how to live and survive in Jamaica as they have been licing in the UK since childhood. The letter also stated that as well as having lived and worked in the UK for many years, the ‘Jamaica 50’ also have family and children in the UK.

Donna Gurthrie, BARAC UK’s Women’s Officer, addressed this in a statement released yesterday which aims to ‘oppose the hostile environment’ that lead to the deportations, commenting that, “together we stopped 37 people being deported but the children of the 13 taken are broken.”

At the time of writing, 186,000 members of the public have signed a petition to stop the deportations.

Labour MPs have also been vocal about the deportation. Over 60 of them signed a separate letter calling for cancellation of the deportation flight.

Addressing the change in the decision about deporting the Black British individuals, Labour MP Bell Riberio-Addy said: “The fact that activists and lawyers are able to overturn decisions in a single appeal betrays the lack of due process behind this flight. Rather than rushing ahead with further deportations, the government needs to save themselves some embarrassment and save taxpayer money. They must halt all such flights, and comply with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recommendation to end the hostile environment.”

On 28 November, the Labour Party’s shadow immigration minister, Holly Lynch, urged the UK government’s immigration minister, Kevin Forster, to object to the flight. She raised concerns that “the injustices of Windrush could be repeated,” pointing out that Black British people of the Windrush generation were not made aware of their supposedly ‘illegal’ immigration status, were “denied access to healthcare, housing and access to employment,” subjected to a ‘hostile environment’ and were not granted passports despite living in the UK long-term, a reason used for deportation.

In a Commons debate on Monday, immigration minister Chris Philip said that the flight was not about the Windrush scandal, but about “criminality, not nationality”.

The home secretary, Priti Patel, has called the reference to the Windrush scandal “deeply offensive,” calling opposition such as the 90 public figures ‘do-gooding’ celebrities, and writing to Labour MP Clive Lewis on the 1 December :

“Removing those from the country who have caused harm, served their sentence and now have no right to remain is just one way in which a responsible government acts to keep the people safe.”

Patel added that, “When you and other Labour MPs continue to call for the government to stop this flight, I would implore you to think of the victims of these criminals’ shameful offences. There can be no doubt that the idea of these deportations being halted at the last minute only serve to re-traumatise them.”

Patel concluded the letter with, “Staying in this country is a privilege, not a right. This government will never stand by and allow foreign criminals, who have no right to remain, to walk free on our streets.”

Downing Street has also dubbed the 50 Black British people “dangerous foreign criminals”.

There are no plans by the UK government to prevent further deportations. It is expected, therefore, that there will be ongoing efforts to stop the deportations and ‘hostile environment.’

Image: pxhere

By Shin Woo Kim

Editor-in-Chief Shinwoo (they/them) is a former News Editor. They identify as a Marxist-Leninist, and have written for Voices, News and Opinion and more recently for TV & Film.