Despite a protest staged outside the Jamaican High Commission in London Tuesday, the British Government deported 42 Jamaicans amid claims that they were tricked and that the expulsions were unjust.
The deportees, some carrying only one bag of personal possessions, arrived in Kingston on a chartered flight yesterday morning and were taken to Mobile Reserve, the police unit at Merrion Road, where they were processed before being released to anxious relatives.
Most hid their faces on release, except for one irate middle-aged man. He accused the British authorities of “using racism and bullyism” to effect the deportations and blamed the Jamaican Government of being a “sell-out”.
“I’m a Rasta man, what do you expect of me? I smoke it,” he said in reference to marijuana.
He said he had already completed over four months of his nine-month sentence, but that the immigration authorities held him for another four months. “Then dem just say time to deport you. I appealed everything, and they turned down everything and pushed it aside,” he told journalists.
The Unity Centre, an immigration and asylum support group that opposes the move by the British Government, said the sentiment amongst the deportees is that they were conned and manipulated.
“People issued tickets for the charter flight on Wednesday have complied with the conditions imposed on them by the Home Office. They have succumbed to the Home Office’s every demand and now feel like they have been tricked and kidnapped. Each person told the same story — they went to sign at the Home Office reporting centre as required and were tricked,” the Unity Centre said earlier this week in a news release headlined ‘Home Office Restarts Racist Jamaica Charter Flights’.
The UK’s Guardian newspaper on Tuesday, in its report on the protest over the deportations outside the Jamaican High Commission in south-west London, pointed out that some of the deportees were still fighting their immigration cases.
“Critics have raised questions about the tactics used by Home Office immigration enforcement, which has been accused of ‘strategically’ detaining individuals to fill the flight, without consideration of their circumstances,” the Guardian said.
Yesterday, the Jamaica Observer was told that among the deportees were elderly individuals, some of whom have lived their entire lives in England.
One woman who spoke with the Observer was on the verge of tears as she said she was anxious to see her son who was locked up in the United Kingdom in 2014. She said she had been in contact with him through twice-monthly phone calls facilitated by a chaplain at the prison where he had been incarcerated. She said that while, she was happy to have her son home, she was devastated by the circumstances under which he had been forced to return.
The Glasgow-based Unity Centre said it has been in contact with more than 50 Jamaicans detained by UK immigration and that, “Everyone we have spoken to has been here since they were children and have no family or friends in Jamaica.”
The organisation charged that hundreds who were previously released on bail and temporary admission have been detained “in a deliberate act to prepare for this charter flight to Jamaica”.
“Their lives are here in the UK. Everyone we have spoken to has British family, children and partners, even grandchildren and extended family. Many individuals have ongoing immigration cases and most cannot afford to pay the huge legal fees to regularise their stay…Their lives are here in the UK. Everyone we have spoken to has British family, children and partners, even grandchildren and extended family,” the solidarity group stated.
The Unity Centre further argued that many of those detained for deportation were “swept up” as part of a controversial initiative named ‘Operation Nexus’. “Some of the people we spoke to, due to be deported on Wednesday, have never even been convicted of a crime. Those that have served custodial sentences served their sentences. This is simply a racist double punishment,” the group alleged.
Yesterday, Jamaica’s foreign affairs ministry said it has been advised by the Ministry of National Security that “such flights have previously been used over the past several years, under a Memorandum of Understanding between the governments of Jamaica and the United Kingdom, which addresses such matters”.
Treasurer of the National Organisation of Deported Migrants Dwight Jones, who along with other representatives of that group waited outside the gates of the Mobile Reserve, told the press that the organisation stood ready to assist the deportees with information, transportation, and direct those who would be homeless to shelters.
“We are able to provide documentation such as birth certificate and TRN, and we work with government agencies, non-government agencies and donor agencies. (This) is not necessarily an exceptional event – we are here every month, and in some instances it’s a weekly thing,” Jones said, noting that about 70 people are deported from the United States weekly, but that deportations from the UK are not as frequent.