Fri | Jun 24, 2022

Letter of the Day | UK needs to stop illegal deportation of Jamaicans

Published:Tuesday | May 17, 2022 | 12:05 AM


The late Barbara Gloudon once paid me the compliment of saying that I had become a Jamaican “by osmosis”. Perhaps that is why I react with such visceral anger to the news that another 20 men are due to be deported to Jamaica from the United Kingdom (UK) on Wednesday as “foreign criminals”. Most of them have lived in the UK since they were children and have no family in Jamaica. Most have children in Britain, who will be traumatised by this abrupt separation from their fathers. Most ended their sentences years ago and are rehabilitated.

When previous flights were chartered by the UK government for Jamaican deportees, they left almost empty, because the British courts had found that the deportation orders were illegal. This has led to an attack on “lefty human-rights lawyers” by the UK prime minister, which is a disgraceful denial of the rule of law. I salute those barristers and solicitors in the UK who have taken up these cases, for little personal gain since these cases, dealing often with the right to family life and due process, are no longer funded by the legal aid scheme.

I was proud to have been a human-rights barrister in the UK for many years. I taught younger colleagues that it was not enough to be a ‘lefty’, but you had to know the law and unearth the facts which, together, could prove that injustice had occurred. By winning cases, they would be seen to be on the side of the law.

In Jamaica, we may be depressed by the delays in getting justice, and by bad decisions which we have to appeal. But there remains a basic consensus that the law, as declared by the courts, must be respected. Not so in my country of birth. When three senior judges held that the government had acted illegally in not submitting the Brexit decision to a vote in Parliament, their faces were spread across the front page of the Daily Mail under the headline ‘Enemies of the People’. Last week, the government announced that it would “replace” the Human Rights Act, which is the UK’s equivalent of our Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.

The Jamaican Government should speak out loudly against the UK’s abuse of power and disregard for human rights. For those who arrive on Wednesday, we should welcome them and help them to find ways of using their skills. And the moral of the story, for citizens of the UK or Jamaica, or both, is to “get up, stand up, stand up for your rights.”