Bethan Staton, Sky News, February 3, 2019
Dozens of people will be deported to Jamaica on a charter flight this week, despite many having lived for decades in the UK and having children and families in the UK.
Many of the deportees, all of whom have criminal convictions, have never returned to Jamaica and have said they fear for their safety in the country.
Sky News has spoken to several men currently held in Harmondsworth detention centre, where they say 30-40 men have been told they have been booked on a 6 February flight and moved to a designated wing.
They include Owen Haisley, who told Sky News he has three British children and moved to the UK at the age of four in 1977.
“I don’t know anything else apart from England, I’m being sent back to a country where I’ve never been,” he said.
“I’ve got no family in Jamaica. I tried to put on a Jamaican accent and everyone was laughing at me.”
Mr Haisley served a sentence for domestic violence in 2015. He said he completed rehabilitation courses and spends time regularly with his sons, aged five and seven.
He told Sky News he had made plans over the weekend to see them but was detained before they could meet.
“I hold my hands up. I understand the offence, and I brought this on myself,” he said.
“What I don’t understand is the Home Office saying my children will do better without me, that they’d be better off only seeing me over Skype.
“It’s not right. People are being deported and taken away from their families.”
According to Jamaican media, the details of 50 deportees have been handed to Jamaican authorities ahead of a scheduled arrival on 6 February.
The charter flight — booked by the UK government specifically for the purpose of deportations — is believed to be the first to Jamaica after the Windrush scandal.
“The UK, like many other countries, uses charter flights to return people to their country of origin where they no longer have a right to remain,” a Home Office spokesperson told Sky News.
“The majority of those being returned are returned on scheduled, commercial flights but this isn’t always an option, especially where the individual may be a foreign national offender.”
The government operates a stringent policy around the deportation of people who have served prison sentences, deeming their removal in the public interest.
The Home Office said: “Foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in the UK should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them.”
And authorities added: “All foreign nationals who are given a custodial sentence will be considered for removal.”
But campaigners say deporting people who have served their sentences constitutes a kind of “double jeopardy” that sees people effectively exiled from their homes and families because they do not have the correct paperwork.
They raise particular concerns over the use of charter flights, which mean dozens of people are detained over the course of a few weeks then removed as a large group under stringent security.
“These secretive night flights are the most brutal part of this government’s vicious immigration regime,” Sean Lyons, of activist group End Deportations, said.
“Many of the people the government is planning to force on to the plane to Jamaica will have ongoing asylum claims, many will have children who live here.
“They are out of control, and these brutal, inhumane and barely legal flights must be stopped.”
22-year-old Chevon Brown, who came to the UK when he was 14 and received a deportation order after a dangerous driving conviction, has been told he is booked to leave on a flight on 6 February.
Mr Brown said the Home Office have told him he was “not integrated” into British society.
“How can they say that?” he told Sky News. “I had plans to live in the UK for the rest of my life, my missus is here, she’s English. I’ve accepted the English way of life.
“But this experience means I’ve been segregated from all my friends. They’re portraying me like I’m a danger to society.”
Speaking from Harmondsworth detention centre, Mr Brown said detainees were complaining of mice and rats and were suffering from the cold.
He has a prescription for antidepressants but said he has not been able to access the medication he needs, despite repeated requests.
Twane Morgan, an Afghanistan veteran with PTSD, is also facing deportation. He was detained last month and is currently being held in Colnbrook detention centre. It is not clear whether he is booked on next week’s flight.
Some of the men did not want to be identified: they are afraid their British accents and appearance will flag them as deportees on their arrival in Jamaica and put them at risk of violence.
Among those fearful of being targeted is Rodney (not his real name) who moved to the UK at the age of five, and was served a deportation order after being sentenced for drugs offences.
“I’m feeling broken to be honest,” he added. “I’m a ghost right now, I’m just an immigrant, even though I’ve been here 19 years.”