Dozens of British children are at risk of being torn apart from their fathers before Christmas as the Home Office plans to charter another deportation flight to Jamaica.
The flight, thought to be scheduled for December 2, has been branded ‘racist’ and ‘designed to drive people to despair’ by campaigners supporting those affected.
Movement for Justice (MFJ) claim eight of the men due to be deported have 31 children between them, aged between three and 18.
The men being held up in detention centres have not been allowed visits due to lockdown restrictions and won’t be able to say goodbye to their loved ones before being put on the flight.
The Home Office said it will not apologise for removing ‘dangerous foreign criminals’ from the country.
But campaigners say many being targeted have lived in the UK since they were children or teenagers and have no links with Jamaica.
Metro.co.uk spoke to the devastated partner of one man being deported after moving to the UK to flee violence 18 years ago.
He was detained suddenly after she took him to sign on at the Home Office as normal, leaving her with the agonising task of explaining to their two young daughters why she returned home alone.
Rebecca – not her real name – said he served his time after being convicted of intent to supply Class A drugs and branded the deportation a ‘double punishment’.
She told this news site: ‘I’m heartbroken. It’s like I am here but I am not here, I am so zoned out. I am trying to keep strong for my kids but it is so hard.
‘I have told them daddy is away for work. They keep asking “when is daddy coming home”.
‘It’s not fair. He did make a mistake but he did his time. This is like a double punishment as it’s punishing me and my family. ‘
Rebecca described her partner as her ‘soulmate’ and an ‘amazing dad’ who did the school run while she worked. She fears she will have to give up her job as she will no longer have child support after he is deported, ‘making things hard money wise’.
She said: ‘They are tearing families apart. They don’t know what they are doing to the kids. It’s so much stress and anxiety. Everyone is devastated, I really can’t explain it.’
MFJ say five of eight detainees they have spoken to were acting as main carers for their children while their keyworker partners worked throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Spokeswoman Karen Doyle said: ‘[Their partners] are terrified, scared and confused. No one really understands why this is happening because it is so unfair.’
She added that others in detention are too afraid to tell their loved ones they may end up on the flight ‘because they fear the devastation to their children’.
‘One man is afraid of telling his mother because she is undergoing cancer treatment,’ she said.
Under UK law, non-British citizens who are convicted of a crime and sentenced to 12 months or more in prison can be eligible for deportation.
The Home Office would not say how many people were being detained for the flight, but said it included convicted murderers and rapists. However they declined to provide a breakdown of offences when contacted by Metro.co.uk.
MFJ say that of the people they have taken a detailed history of, six were convicted of drug offences and two for possession of a weapon.
Earlier this year, research by the Sentencing Council found that black men were about 1.4 times more likely than white men to receive a custodial sentence for drug offences.
Many of the men facing deportation, along with their partners, said they were too scared to speak to the press about their situation for fear it would harm their appeal case.
The Court of Appeal stopped 25 people from being deported earlier this year amid concerns that mobile phone outages had prevented them from having access to legal advice while in detention.
17 men were still forced out of the country despite public outcry and protests at Whitehall.
That included dad-of-two Rayan Crawford, who moved to the UK aged 12 and lost his right to remain over two non-violent burglary offences which his partner Jana says happened while he suffered a gambling addiction.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk on Father’s Day in June she said their two young children felt ‘down and rejected’ and miss their dad every day.
She said: ‘Both their behaviours have changed a lot. The oldest is just at that age where he needs a father. He knows what’s going on because he has seen it on the news. He has just shut himself off. He is depressed and down in the dumps.
‘The baby doesn’t really understand but he is not sleeping and he never wants to let go of my hand. He thinks his dad left him for another family because he saw him on the BBC, that image has stayed with him.’
Over 150,000 people have signed a petition to stop mass deportations to Jamaica.
The petition was set up by Zita Holbourne, founder of BARAC, a group that campaigns against racism and for migrant rights.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk, she said those targeted for deportation are being branded as ‘hardened criminals’ when in reality, many are victims of county lines, were convicted under the now defunct joint enterprise rule or have minor criminal offences.
She said they now face a ‘life punishment’ because of their immigration status, as many of the men in detention have no money, family or next of kin in Jamaica.
‘This is happening to people who have been in the UK since they were small children, they have never known anything other than Britain, they have no links to Jamaica,’ she said.
‘A large number this time are dads. The human rights of the children are not being taken into account.
‘If you are born in Britain compared to being here since you were young, you are allowed to just serve your time here, rehabilitate and live your life.’
The activist added that many of those on the flight would likely be descendants of the Windrush generation and deportations should be stopped until all 30 recommendations from the Lessons Learned review have been implemented.
The report found the Home Office to be institutionally ignorant of racism and made recommendations including race equality training and teaching the history of colonialism and black people in Britain.
On Wednesday, another damning report found the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ policy under Theresa May broke equality laws and contributed to serious injustices faced by the Windrush generation.
BAME lawyers for justice, which represents black and Asian minority ethnic groups, said the findings of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report come as ‘no surprise’ and urged the Government to stop the Jamaica deportation flight.
In a statement they said: ‘If it goes ahead, the proposed charter flight will only serve to exacerbate the collective trauma felt by the black British community as a result of the Windrush scandal.’
The Home Office has removed more than 6,400 foreign criminals from the UK since January 2019. Since April enforced deportations has included the use of over thirty charter flights to Albania, France, Germany, Ghana, Lithuania, Nigeria, Poland and Spain.
Campaigners, as well as former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, have urged the Government to put a complete halt to deportations during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Home Office said that none of the individuals due to be on the flight to Jamaica are eligible for the Windrush Scheme.
A spokesperson said: ‘We make no apology for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals to keep the public safe. The people being detained for this flight include convicted murderers and rapists.’
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