Diane Taylor, The Guardian, November 9, 2021
Most of the people due to board a controversial deportation flight to Jamaica on Wednesday have been removed from the flight list, as anti-deportation activists have blocked the road in front of a detention centre to try to prevent them from being put on the plane.
The activists, calling themselves Stop The Plane, have locked themselves to metal pipes outside Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick airport.
Originally more than 50 Jamaican nationals were due to fly, but the Guardian understands most are no longer on the passenger list.
The flight was due to depart at 1am on Wednesday morning with only two or three passengers onboard. Messages online from anti-deportation groups said the flight departed Birmingham airport with just three deportees on board a plane able to seat 350 people.
Home Office deportation flights to Jamaica are controversial because of the Windrush scandal. Although the Home Office says nobody from the Windrush generation is on the list, some have Windrush connections.
The Home Office has encountered various problems with the flight. The Covid outbreak at Colnbrook, an immigration removal centre near Heathrow, has led to some detainees being told their removal flight has been deferred; in addition, some of those due to fly on Wednesday have been identified as potential victims of trafficking as a result of county lines drug dealing, which requires further investigation.
Concern has been raised at the highest level by the Jamaican high commissioner, Seth Ramocan, about people who have been in the UK since childhood. A survey of 17 people originally expected to fly on Wednesday, by the organisation Movement For Justice, identified at least 10 who have been in the UK since they were children. They include one man who came to Britain at the age of nine and was raised by his aunt, who was from the Windrush generation. At least 24 British children have been at risk of losing their fathers.
Another man, who came to the UK at the age of 10, and served an eight-year-sentence for a kidnapping offence, is suffering from dangerously high blood pressure. In the past few weeks he has been taken to hospital several times, admitted and then discharged back to the detention centre. His blood pressure has been as high as 260/150, particularly high for someone of 34. A healthy reading is in the range of 90/60 to 120/80.
His lawyer, Jacqueline McKenzie of Leigh Day solicitors, said she had been informed his wrist was believed to have been fractured earlier on Tuesday during a restraint episode in the detention centre.
The Home Office said: “The Home Office reviews all reports resulting from a use of force to ensure that techniques are used proportionately, that they are justified, and are used for the minimum period required.”
One medical assessment carried out during the man’s detention states: “He needs to be released from custody as soon as practically possible as we cannot predict when he would have another massive MI, or even a stroke or fatal event. Please release him as soon as possible to avoid a major cardiovascular event.”
McKenzie said: “I am extremely concerned about our client, who has been deemed unfit to fly. It is unclear why the Home Office has chosen to be so belligerent in this case.”
A spokesperson for Stop The Plane said: “We reject the legitimacy of the entire deportation regime. It is premised on racist notions of black, brown and racialised people.”
The Home Office said: “Those individuals 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. All immigration removal centres have dedicated 24-hour on-site medical facilities, including access to independent doctors and nurses, with healthcare support provided throughout the removal process. An individual’s medical needs are determined by an independent doctor and will always be considered when removing them.”