Wednesday 23 September, 2020

UK deportation flight on its way to Kingston despite court ruling

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Despite protests and a court ruling, 17 of more than 40 Jamaicans who were scheduled to be removed from the United Kingdom are on a charted deportation flight to Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport.

A last-minute Court of Appeal ruling Monday meant dozens of those who were scheduled to be removed did not board the flight. They were reportedly denied access to legal representation.

The court had ordered the Home Office not to deport dozens of the men who had been denied access to working sim cards at the Heathrow detention facilities following a mobile phone signal outage that prevented them from consulting lawyers.

According to The Independent which has been tracking the story for several weeks, Downing Street has admitted that 17 people were on the flight that took off Tuesday morning, while 25 remained in the UK because of the  Court of Appeal ruling. 

The department attempted to get the ruling overturned in the hours before the flight, but its application for reconsideration was rejected by the Court of Appeal shortly before 1 am on Tuesday.

Charities and campaign groups said a number of detainees from Harmondsworth removal centre – one of the Heathrow facilities affected by the mobile outage – were driven to an airport despite the Court of Appeal ruling, but then not put on the flight and driven back.

An official spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said those who avoided removal are being held in removal centres, but are now able to launch applications for release on bail. He said the government would be "urgently appealing" against the court decision.

Reshawn Davis, one detainee in Colnbrook removal centre – the other Heathrow facility affected by the signal problems – told The Independent on Tuesday morning that he was not taken to the flight and remained in the centre.

He said a number of fellow detainees were no longer in the facility, but he did not know where they had been taken.

Davis, 30, who arrived in the UK aged 11 and has a six-month-old daughter, said he felt relieved that he wasn’t put on the flight but added that he was still fearful as he hadn’t been given any information on why and whether he was still liable to be removed.

“I was awake most of the night. I kept hearing people walk outside my room and I thought they were going to come and take me,” he said. “I don’t know how to feel. I’m happy, but my emotions are all over the place. I still don’t know what’s going on.”

The prime minister’s spokesman said that those deported had been sentenced to a total of 75 years in prison for offences including rape, firearms, and supplying class A drugs.

“We bitterly regret this decision which prevents the removal from our country of foreign criminals convicted of rape, manslaughter, sexual offences, violence and drug offences which spread misery across our communities," they said in a statement.

It is understood that government lawyers argued during the appeal case that the detainees were offered alternative means of communicating with legal teams during a mobile phone outage, including alternative SIM cards being offered on request, landline access and Internet access.

It is not immediately clear what time the flight is scheduled to land in Jamaica.

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