By Isabel Ringrose
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Protests help stop deportations to Jamaica

Issue 2781
Activists lie in a road with their arm in a metal tube, as police surround them and attempt to remove them

Activists block the road outside Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick airport (Picture: SOAS Detainee Support)

A deportation flight due to take up to 50 people back to Jamaica on Wednesday morning left with just a handful.

Dozens of people were taken off the flight in the days and hours before it left Birmingham Airport at 1am on Wednesday with three or four on board.

This was in part due to the work of activists blocking detainees from being put on the plane.

Hours before the flight, activists from the Stop The Plane campaign locked themselves to metal pipes outside Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick airport. Activists were held in overnight custody after their successful action.

This is the fourth charter deportation flight to Jamaica in recent months, and had a capacity of 350.

Deportees were also taken off the flight list due a Covid outbreak at Colnbrook, an immigration removal centre near Heathrow. Some now have been confirmed positive for Covid.

Others also had their removal deferred because they have been identified as potential victims of trafficking, groomed by county lines gangs.

One 23 year old man who was taken off the flight has lived in Britain since he was three months old.

Another, 29, has been here since he was a year old. Neither have any memory of Jamaica, and have been identified as potential county lines victims.

The Home Office also took a man with HIV off the flight. It has subsequently been threatened with legal action after it failed to provide him with urgent treatment.

A 20-year-old woman with no criminal convictions was also due to be deported. She has been in Britain since she was 13 and has no relatives in Jamaica.

The woman was due to be deported with her mother, 56, who also has no convictions. Both were taken off the flight list.

Another man, aged 34, who served an eight-year-sentence for a kidnapping offence, was suffering from dangerously high blood pressure.

He was taken to hospital several times in the last few weeks, admitted and then discharged back to the detention centre.

His blood pressure had been as high as 260/150. A healthy reading is in the range of 90/60 to 120/80.

His lawyer from Leigh Day solicitors said his wrist was likely fractured earlier on Tuesday as he was being restrained in the detention centre.

There are now further questions about the legality of the Home Office’s deportation policy after so many people have been pulled from flights.

People facing removal also have a dangerous lack of access to legal advice. This means they only have access to decent lawyers in the days leading up to their flight, with charities offering help.

The charity Detention Action is bringing a case against the Home Office over the “shambolic” access to legal advice in removal centres.

The cost per deportee has surged by 200 percent in four years, as the average number on each charter flight has dropped from 45 in 2016 to just 15 last year. This means the Home Office has spent an estimated £13,300 for each person removed, compared with £4,444 four years before.

TUC union federation general secretary Frances O’Grady called for future flights to be called off. Grady said, “There have been far too many miscarriages of justice in the immigration system.

“All deportation flights should be suspended while the Home Office addresses its failures to adequately check the circumstances of those targeted for deportation.”

A statement is importation, but actual action by unions against the deportations would ensure pressure on the Home Office to stop its arbitrary flights.

Nobody should be deported—and activists have shown the racist flights can be stopped.

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