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Saturday, Dec 05, 2020

Government refuses to confirm cancellation of flight deporting Jamaica 50

The government has refused to confirm if the planned deportation of more than 50 people to Jamaica will go ahead on Tuesday, following an intervention by the Court of Appeal.

The Home Office was ordered on Monday evening not to remove anyone scheduled to be deported on the flight from two detention centres near Heathrow Airport, after lawyers launched urgent proceedings amid concerns mobile phone outages had prevented access to legal advice.

Lady Justice Simler said detainees should not be removed unless the Home Office is satisfied they ‘had access to a functioning, non-O2 Sim card on or before February 3’.

Government ministers have insisted the flight, which is understood to be leaving the UK at 6.30am on Tuesday, would go ahead despite concerns people who came to the country as young children will be on board.

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The planned charter flight to Jamaica is specifically for deporting foreign national offenders.

‘Those detained for removal include people convicted of manslaughter, rape, violent crime and dealing Class-A drugs.

‘We are urgently asking the judge to reconsider their ruling and it would be inappropriate to comment further whilst legal proceedings are ongoing.’

Lady Justice Simler granted the order without a court hearing following an urgent application on paper by charity Detention Action.

The charity argued that some of the detainees at Colnbrooke and Harmondsworth detention centres still do not have a functioning mobile phone, following issues with an O2 phone mast in the area.

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: ‘We are delighted with this landmark decision which is a victory for access to justice, fairness and the rule of law.

‘On the basis of this order from our Court of Appeal we do not believe that anyone currently detained at the Heathrow detention centres can be removed on tomorrow’s flight.

‘We understand that this will apply to at least 56 people.’

Writer Nadine Batchelor-Hunt claimed a detainee at one of the centres had told her the flight was still going ahead.

She wrote on Twitter: ‘I’ve just had a detainee at Brook House on the phone terrified as he’s been told he’s being prepared for deportation NOW.’

Earlier this evening crowds of people protested the deportations outside Downing Street.

The demonstrators carried placards reading ‘Solidarity with the Windrush Generation’ and chanted ‘no charter flight, respect human rights’.

The protest later moved towards Parliament Square and blocked the road.

A woman, who gave her name only as Anthea, described her husband’s unsuccessful deportation battle last year.

The 51-year-old mother-of-two said: ‘He was deported on February 6 last year – he had no knowledge he was going to be deported until February 5.’

Anthea added she had been forced to borrow money and get into debt to pay for a solicitor to try and keep her husband in the country.

The Government faced sustained questioning and some heavy criticism over the decision in the House of Commons on Monday.

Labour MPs shouted ‘shame’ as Home Secretary Priti Patel left the chamber to allow junior minister Kevin Foster to respond to an urgent question on the matter for the Government.

More than 150 MPs have signed a letter calling on the Prime Minister to step in and stop the flight.

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Potentially, a government is the most dangerous threat to man's rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims.

Ayn Rand
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