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Jamaica deportation flight leaves but without some detainees after court ruling

A Court of Appeal judge had said some the detainees should not be removed because of lack of access to functioning mobile phone services.

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The Home Office has gone ahead with a planned deportation flight to Jamaica (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Home Office has gone ahead with a planned deportation flight to Jamaica (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Home Office has gone ahead with a planned deportation flight to Jamaica (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Home Office has gone ahead with a planned deportation flight to Jamaica.

But some of the detainees who were due on the flight did not leave after a Court of Appeal judge intervened.

On Monday night, Lady Justice Simler ordered the Home Office not to carry out the scheduled deportation of some people amid concerns that mobile phone outages had prevented them from having access to legal advice while in detention awaiting deportation.

Lady Justice Simler said those detainees should not be removed unless the Home Office is satisfied they “had access to a functioning, non-O2 Sim card on or before February 3″.

Asked how many people were on board the flight, Chancellor Sajid Javid told Sky News: “I don’t know the exact number but I think it is around 20 – or above 20.”

More than 50 people were originally thought to have been due to be deported.

On Tuesday morning, a Home Office spokesman said: “We make no apology for trying to protect the public from serious, violent and persistent foreign national offenders.

“The court ruling does not apply to all of the foreign national offenders due to be deported and we are therefore proceeding with the flight.”

Bella Sankey, of Detention Action, said the campaign group believed that some of the people who were due for deportation were not on the flight because they were covered by the court order.

She tweeted: “We understand that some, possibly all, of these individuals may have been ultimately removed from the flight but we are currently trying to clarify this.”

Earlier, Ms Sankey said removing those detainees covered by the order would have meant the Home Office was breaking the law.

Campaigners have criticised the deportation flight, arguing that some of the foreign nationals being kicked out of the country had come to the UK as children, had no links with Jamaica and had been convicted of one-time drug offences when they were young.

But Government ministers have defended the flight, saying the detainees have been convicted of serious crimes including drug trafficking, violence and firearms offences.

The court order covered anyone held in two detention centres close to Heathrow – Colnbrooke and Harmondsworth.

The judge granted the order without a court hearing following an urgent application on paper by Detention Action.

Protests against government deportation plans
Police and protesters in Parliament Square, London at a rally against government plans to deport 50 people to Jamaica (Aaron Chown/PA)

The charity argued that some of the detainees at the two Heathrow centres did not have a functioning mobile phone, following issues with an O2 phone mast in the area.

But the order did not apply to Brook House detention centre, close to Gatwick, although campaigners said detainees there had experienced similar problems.

According to Detention Action, around 56 people were being held in the two Heathrow detention centres.

It is not known exactly how many people were held in Brook House.

The flight sparked a protest outside Downing Street on Monday evening, which ended up with demonstrators blocking the roads around Parliament Square.

There were heated scenes in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon as Labour MPs put in an urgent question on the matter for the Government.

There were shouts of “shame” as Home Secretary Priti Patel left the chamber, leaving junior minister Kevin Foster to respond.

Mr Foster insisted no British nationals were on the flight and said deportation rules were applied on “the criminality, not the nationality of the offender”, adding: “The foreign nationals on that flight have been sentenced to a total of 300 years in prison.

“The offences are, as we said, relate to everything from sex offending, serious drug trafficking offences, violent offences, firearms offences.”

Mr Foster was repeatedly asked by MPs for more specific information on the nature of offences committed by those on the flight but refused to provide more detail.

More than 150 MPs signed a letter calling on the Prime Minister to step in and stop the flight.

The flight follows news of a leaked report commissioned by ministers in the wake of the Windrush scandal which warned the Government that the deportation policy should be reconsidered in all but the “most severe cases”.

Written in June 2019, the document seen by PA said: “Government should review its policy and approach to FNOs (foreign national offenders), if necessary through primary legislation.

“It should consider ending all deportations of FNOs where they arrived in the UK as children (say before age of 13). Alternatively – deportation should only be considered in the most severe cases.”

Speaking after the flight took off, Ms Sankey said: “Thankfully our Court of Appeal has halted much of the injustice of today’s deportation flight but we are deeply concerned that people have still been deported from Brook House without proper access to legal advice, including at least one individual with clear Windrush links.

“If Government wants to show strength and leadership on this issue it will now pause and reflect on widespread and mounting calls for its detention and deportation systems to be fundamentally reformed.

“Populist authoritarianism is easy and lazy. But Britain is better than this.”

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) said two reviews, the Windrush Lessons Learned Review and the Shaw Review, had said the Government should stop deporting people who arrived here as children.

A JCWI statement said: “Our thoughts are with the families who have just been forced apart by the Government, with the children who have lost their fathers, with the women who’ve become single mothers overnight.

“They are British in every meaningful way and if the law allows those people to be exiled, it needs to change.”

But Mr Javid, a former Home Secretary, said: “We will always do what we can to protect the public. These are all foreign national offenders – they have all received custodial sentences of 12 months or more. They are responsible for crimes like manslaughter, rape, dealing in class A drugs.

“And it is absolutely right, when they have served their sentence, that we send them out of the country because they are not British nationals, they are not members of the Windrush generation, they are all foreign national offenders.”

PA