Mon | Jan 18, 2021

Celebrities join campaign to stop December deportation of Jamaicans from Britain

Published:Saturday | November 28, 2020 | 10:12 AM
Naomi Campbell (file photo). The British supermodel is among 82 black public figures in Britain to join the campaign against the deportation of some 50 Jamaicans from England , according to Al Jazeera.

Eighty-two black public figures in Britain, including celebrities, have joined the protest to stop the deportation of some 50 people to Jamaica, Al Jazeera reports. 

The plane is schedule to leave the United Kingdom on Wednesday, December 2. 

Among the celebrities are supermodel Naomi Campbell, who is of Jamaican parentage; historian David Olusoga, actresses Thandie Newton and Naomie Harris, as well as writer Bernardine Evaristo. They along with campaigners have been urging airlines that have previously allowed such charter flights, to refuse any assistance to the UK government.

The issue has been trending on social media platforms, chiefly Twitter, since the announcement earlier this week, under the hashtag #stoptheplane.

The British Home Office has said the flight will deport “convicted murderers and rapists”.

Al Jazeera reports that under the UK law, a foreign national who has been convicted of an offence and who has received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more can be eligible for deportation.

However, Jacqueline McKenzie, human rights lawyer and director for the Centre for Migration Advice and Research, said the 12-month limit unjustly targets people responsible for less serious crimes, such as a young man she represented who was deported to Jamaica in February 2019, after serving 14 months in prison for driving offences.

“The majority of people on the list are on the list for drug offences,” she told Al Jazeera.

“If you have been in the UK as a child, you shouldn't’t be deported irrespective of what your offence is.

“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.”

Families to be separated

There are concerns over how the deportation will affect families, which will become separated. It could affect some 31 families, the news agency reports.

Quoting the civil liberties and migrant rights group Movement for Justice, it reported that eight of the men due to be deported have 31 children between them, aged three to 18.

Although the Home Office has said none of the deportees is eligible for the Windrush Scheme, Zita Holbourne, co-founder of the anti-racist Black Activists Against Rising Cuts organisation, said many detainees had a direct link to the Windrush generation through their parents or grandparents.

“It’s like an extension of the Windrush scandal. You’re now punishing their children and their grandchildren,” Al Jazeera quoted her.

The Windrush Scheme allows Commonwealth citizens settled in the UK before January 1, 1973, who do not have documentation to prove it, to obtain evidence confirming their British citizenship free of charge.

The last chartered flight to leave for Jamaica in February had drawn concerns from lawyers, after it emerged that mobile phone outages had prevented the deportees from accessing legal advice. A last-minute court ruling granted a reprieve to 25 people, while 17 others were still removed.

The BBC had quoted Prime Minister Boris Johnson as saying in February that it was "right to send back foreign national offenders." 

Exactly a year prior, 50 Jamaicans were also deported from the UK to Jamaica.  

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