Activists, black celebrities protest deportation of 50 people to Jamaica

(Photo: BBC)

Activists and black celebrities in the UK are putting pressure on the government to stop a deportation flight to Jamaica. The flight is scheduled for December 2, with approximately 50 people on board.

But this is a move they say would separate about 31 children from their fathers. Eighty-two Black British public figures, including model Naomi Campbell, historian David Olusoga, actresses Thandie Newton and Naomie Harris, and writer Bernardine Evaristo, have added their voices to the plea.

They are urging airlines which have previously allowed such charter flights to refuse any assistance.

Al Jazeera reports that the flight will deport “convicted murderers and rapists”, according to the Home Office.

Under UK law a foreign national who has been convicted of an offence and received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more can be eligible for deportation.

But Jacqueline Mckenzie, human rights lawyer and director for the Centre for Migration Advice and Research, said the 12-month limit is unjust. She explains that it also targets people responsible for less serious crimes.

“The majority of people on the list are on the list for drug offences,” she said. If you have been in the UK as a child, you shouldn’t be deported irrespective of what your offence is.”

Deportees arriving in Jamaica in a chartered flight in April from the US

“Whether you’ve got the right documentation or not, you’re culturally British, you’re part of this society. You’ve offended here, you are punished here, and your punishment is going to prison. People should not be punished twice.” she continued.

Meanwhile, Zita Holbourne, co-founder of the anti-racist Black Activists Against Rising Cuts organisation raised the concern about whether COVID-19 protocols will be implemented on the flight.

“When you get to the plane, you are shackled from the waist down and you are cuffed to two guards on either side,” Holbourne said. “[The Home Office] is saying they’re aiming for up to 50 [deportees]. Up to 50 [people] with two guards added is 150, which is a full plane, so that won’t be socially distanced.”

In response to the planned deportation, the Home Office said: “We make no apology for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals to keep the public safe.”