By Zita Holbourne (reproduced from change.org)
I have mixed emotions today. We are really happy that 37 of the 50 people given a removal notice to Jamaica were not deported. Only 13 were taken. But that’s still 13 too many, it’s still 13 families ripped apart, most with children who are distraught, traumatised and confused.
I spoke last night with a partner of one of those being deported. She had the unbearably painful experience of telling her children that their daddy was being deported and they had to say good on the phone. Her ten year old son asked her as he was half Jamaican was he going to be deported too.
This evening I spoke to their ten year old and five year old children and it broke my heart. Their five year old daughter said that thing she would miss the most is watching movies and eating popcorn with her dad and that it is making her sad. Their ten year old son told me that what he will miss is seeing his dad and hugging him. He told me that he feels really angry about it and he would like to speak to the person who made the decision to deport his dad and he would like to tell them that they are breaking families apart.
But it was through people power that we were able to have an impact that made a difference.
The pressure we applied collectively led to all those who arrived in the UK aged under 12 being taken off the flight, then others were taken off due to the right to family life because they have children in the UK and because they were the victims of modern day slavery.
So we would like to thank the other campaign groups, the lawyers, public figures, politicians and every single one of you for signing this petition, sharing our updates, taking part in the various actions.
I was proud but also saddened that it was needed, to co-sign a letter with black celebrities and public figures calling on 5 airlines known to carry out charter flight deportations: https://www.elle.com/uk/life-and-culture/culture/a34818984/naomi-campbell-thandie-newton-stop-windrush-deportation-plane/
But once we had heard from all the airlines we wrote to that they were not operating the flight, attention focused on Privilege Style airline who we subsequently found out were the airline that operated the plane from Stansted .
As predicted the Home Office started gathering people to transfer them to the airport early last evening . But during the course of the evening and before this the days running up to it, we received calls from several of the #jamaica50 telling us they had been taken of the flight.
Even once people had been taken on board the aircraft where they were shackled from the waist down, cuffed to two guards, four more people were physically taken off the plane and returned to detention.
Flight P69139 operated by Privilege Style airline departed Stansted at 1.10am for Norman Manley airport Kingston, Jamaica.
As the thirteen ( never has 13 felt like such an unlucky number as now), arrived in Jamaica this morning they would usually have been taken to Harmon barracks to be processed at the police station there but I have received news from Jamaica that they were taken to a hotel for two days for covid testing. The Jamaican health minister said that once they have undergone tests they will be sent home to quarantine. If only that was the case and they were sent home to the UK. Quite what he meant by home I don’t know.
Many of those we have spoken to over the past couple of weeks said they have nobody in Jamaica. If there is no family or friend to take you in, you are dependent on charities and forced to go to a shelter.
People find themselves destitute, with the stigma of screaming news headlines about them being hardened criminals of the worse kind hanging over them and nobody wanting anything to do with them let alone employ them.
In the past some people deported have sadly taken their own lives. My thoughts are with those families who lost a loved one.
News coverage has been International with coverage in fashion magazine Elle as well as Forbes magazine who interviewed me this evening and I talked there about the multiple sentence / punishment , prison, then detention, deportation, destitution, isolation, exile, trauma and pain, not just for them but punishment for their families here in the UK including their children.
The government claim people had ample time to get legal representation and have again criticised lawyers for successful last minute appeals, branding them ‘activist lawyers’ but in reality those targeted for this flight had less than two weeks notice and for some as little as 5 days to get legal representation and make their case, in the middle of a pandemic and lockdown, with no funds, with no access to the computer room at one detention centre , with misinformation by immigration officers at another and caseworker not answering the phone for days and immigration officers taking days to fax paperwork to lawyers, during a period of trauma and confusion for them and their families. Then when legal action is taken the government claim it should have been done months before. How are people supposed to get legal representation for a deportations they don’t even know is going to happen let alone impact on them personally? Attacking lawyers for doing their job and representing their clients is disgraceful.
We need your continued support for this campaign please. This petition is about all mass deportations, not just this one, plus we are campaigning on the ‘hostile environment’ including compensation for the Windrush generation, for the 30 Windrush lessons learned recommendations to be implemented and for an independent public inquiry into the Windrush scandal.
Please share and sign our petition opposing the Warehouse K immigration enforcement centre the Home Office want to move to Newham with 35 holding cells, in close proximity to London City Airport.
Thank you for all your responses to letters to MPs, these are still arriving even tonight, thank you for sharing updates on social media, lobbying those complicit and more.
We are overwhelmed by the messages of thanks and support we have received today, there have been so many that we haven’t been able to send a personal reply to everyone. But we appreciate them and they keep us uplifted knowing you are all with us, after what has been a tiring and stressful fortnight.
Stay updated via @baracuk and @bamefor on Twitter and @baracukoriginal on Instagram, but we will update you on here too.
Our work for migrant rights includes supporting people who are displaced – refugees – due to climate change, persecution, poverty and /or conflict and those here with no recourse to public funds, providing food, blankets, toiletries and clothes plus other essential items, this is another way to support our work.
To the 13 families impacted – our thoughts and hearts are with you at this terrible time for you.
Regards and thanks
National Chair BARAC UK
On behalf of BARAC UK and BAME Lawyers for Justice