Protesters gather outside the Jamaica High Commission in November 2021.
Campaigners have won the release of three people with no criminal record who were due to be deported to Jamaica next week.
But there are still fears for people who came to the UK as a children and who have served prison sentences and are set to be deported next week.
The mother of a man scheduled to be on the flight who has lived in the UK since he was 10 has made a plea for justice, saying there is “no one back home for him.”
“He went to school, he went to college, he has four kids and they still want to deport him,” Marvalyn Williams, whose son Akeem Finley is facing deportation next week, told the Big Issue. “He don’t have no family back in Jamaica.”
Finley, who was convicted of GBH in 2014 and served a six year sentence, is one of dozens of Jamaicans due to be deported on a charter flight next week. The flight would also mark the first time since the Windrush scandal that people with no criminal record will be deported to the country.
Protesters, including Williams and family members of others on the flight list, demonstrated outside the Jamaican High Commission on Thursday to try and force change.
As the crowd gathered, they heard from detainees inside immigration centres.
“I’m being punished even though I’ve been convicted of my crime, gone to jail, and done my time,” Finley told the crowd down a crackly phone line.
With a megaphone broadcasting the messages from inside the detention centres, detainees joined in a chant of “no more charter flights, we want human rights”.
In the wake of the protest, three people with no convictions, including a mother and daughter, have been removed from the flight. Campaigners now say they aren’t aware of anybody due to be deported next week without a criminal record.
Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP for Streatham, told the Big Issue she was relieved that two of her constituents had been removed from the fight, but added: “The fact they were ever on there shows the government is still failing to make proper assessments of individual needs and circumstances in their haste to deport.
“Of the remaining people we know about on this flight, all have family in the UK, most grew up here and several have learning difficulties.
“The government shouldn’t be tearing families apart by deporting people who have spent most of their lives here and are our responsibility.
“They must now stop this flight, pause all mass deportation flights, and, as countless reports have now advised, start dismantling the hostile environment.”
The charter flight could have up to 50 people on board when it leaves next week. However, the most recent deportation flight to Jamaica, in August, had just seven people on board after 43 were granted a last-minute reprieve. Campaigners are pushing for similar concessions this time around.
Karen Doyle, of campaign group Movement for Justice, told the crowd: “It’s going to be full of people who’ve been here since they were children. People who were raised here since three months old, six months old. People with broad Brummie, Mancunian, London accents.
“It includes people who’ve served no sentence, who’ve committed no crime.”
The mother of another man due to be deported, who came here when he was 11, asked the protest: “What are they going to do with him when he goes back to Jamaica. Where is he going to live, on the street?
“We need justice for our kids. My son does not have anybody in Jamaica. All his family is here, and in America and Canada. He does not know anything about Jamaica.”
Wayman Bennett’s family come from Jamaica, and he knows people who have been deported on charter flights. “I know a young man that was sent there, he has two children,” he told the Big Issue.
“I believe that his life has been destroyed – that’s the reason I’m here,” Bennett, joint national secretary of Stand Up to Racism, said at the protest.
He added that he believes the deportations are racially motivated.
“For minor criminal offences, people are facing double jeopardy, they’re losing their liberty and then losing access to their children, family, and networks,” he said. “They’re doing two-time sentences and I believe that is racially motivated.
“Boris Johnson was born in America. I don’t believe that, if we find out later on he was involved in any form of criminal, sleazy activity, he would be deported.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Those with no right to be in the UK and foreign national offenders should be in no doubt that we will do whatever is necessary to remove them. This is what the public rightly expects and why we regularly operate flights to different countries.
“Extensive checks have taken place to ensure no one being removed is a British citizen or eligible for the Windrush scheme. People are only removed to their country of origin when it is deemed safe to do so.
“Our new Nationality and Borders Bill will create an immigration system that is fair but firm, welcoming those in genuine need but cracking down on those who come to the UK illegally.”
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