The UK government’s decision to forcibly remove 50 people to Jamaica on a private charter plane was a clear case of the increased racism following the EU referendum.
Among those targeted were parents, grandparents and partners of people still resident in the UK, some who are primary carers and one with a mental health condition. All but one had children. Many had been living in the UK for over 10 years, with some arriving in the country as small children, even babies. One person was completing the process of naturalisation before their British-born partner died; they were then told that, as a result of their partner’s death, it could no longer be concluded. The Home Office suggests that people who have been deported can remain in touch with family and keep up their parenting responsibilities via Skype and email.
Despite assurances during the EU referendum campaign that there would be a fairer response towards Commonwealth citizens if the country voted in favour of Brexit, this is clearly not the case.
In the last few weeks, hundreds of individuals previously released on bail and temporary admission have been detained, in a deliberate act to prepare for this charter flight to Jamaica. Many individuals have ongoing immigration cases and most cannot afford to pay the huge legal fees to regularise their stay. Everyone we have spoken to has been here since they were children and have no family or friends in Jamaica. Their lives are here in the UK. Everyone we have spoken to has British family, children and partners, even grandchildren and extended family.
People in immigration detention are asking that their voices are heard. They want the public to know that they were racially profiled and strategically detained in order to fill this charter flight, without consideration of their individual circumstances . They want people to understand that this charter flight will be tearing families apart.
People issued tickets for the charter flight on Wednesday have complied with the conditions imposed on them by the Home Office. They have succumbed to the Home Office’s every demand and now feel like they have been tricked and kidnapped. Each person told the same story – they went to sign at the Home Office reporting centre as required and were tricked. They were told that they must have a quick interview and taken into a room, 3 hours later they were detained. One man even told of his friend who had attended the reporting centre with his baby in a pushchair. The Home Office called social services to pick up the baby and detained the father.
Let us be clear, this is collective expulsion. The people set to fly on Wednesday are not those with particularly weak cases, they’ve been rounded up because they’re Jamaican. These people have nobody in Jamaica and nowhere to go when they touch down in Kingston. They will be torn from families leaving wives and children behind.
These people are carers to partners, fathers to children, members of communities. The UK is their home. Black lives don’t matter to this government.