Activists have described scenes of ‘complete chaos’ as 10 Jamaican nationals were deported from the UK on a flight from Stansted Airport.
The flight – known as the #Jamaica50 – took off at around 1am this morning (Wednesday, August 11) with reports that some detainees tried to take their own lives hours before.
Bella Sankey, Director of Detention Action tweeted : “There has been A LOT going on behind the scenes of the #Jamaica50 flight tonight.
“Horrifying suicide attempts and now lots and lots of people being taken off the plane. It is complete chaos, and we’re still receiving referrals.
“No country should accept charter flights. They sweep everyone up and create a political spectacle that dehumanises those involved and their children & loved ones.”
She went on to say: “Charter flights to Black Commonwealth countries that were previously enslaved by the U.K., like Jamaica, Ghana, Nigeria are abhorrent. Chains? Black families ripped apart?
“Transatlantic crossings in the dead of night? It is sickening. And the data now confirms that these countries are disproportionately targeted.”
The flight took off from Stansted Airport at 1am on Wednesday, but began boarding Jamaican nationals from Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow Airport at 2pm on Tuesday (August 10).
Out of around 50 Jamaican nationals set to be deported, no more than 10 people boarded the charter flight on Wednesday morning.
Many of the Jamaican nationals had their tickets cancelled, with some cancelled last minute and some obtaining a temporary injunction.
However, there have been reports that security guards still tried to depart those with a temporary injunction.
When My London spoke to Akeem Finlay from Brixton on Tuesday (August 10), he was one of five Jamaican nationals who had first arrived in the UK under the age of 12.
The 31-year-old dad-of-four was being deported on a 2014 GBH conviction. Akeem was released in 2016 and completed his probation, which states he is now at low risk of reoffending again.
However, the Home Office believes the voluntary football coach who teaches children under eight, is a risk to the public.
Akeem told My London he ‘fears for his life’ if he is deported back to Jamaica, as all of his family live in the UK and are British citizens.
He first arrived in Brixton aged 10 after being the victim of a gang attack in Jamaica aged 9. Akeem was brought up by his grandparents, who arrived in the UK during Windrush.
Akeem said: “I’ve spent two decades in this country, all I know is this country. I don’t know anything else, I came here as a little child.
“All my family are here, for me to go back I’m just going to be living on the streets. My life will be in danger.”
Akeem went on to say that he was trying to stay strong for his family, but had been struggling badly with his mental health.
Movement for Justice (MfJ), a civil rights and immigration rights movement, has criticised the Home Office’s handling of the #Jamaica50 charter flight.
MfJ National Organiser, Karen Doyle, said: “The Jamaica chartered flight is unique because of the Windrush scandal. The government thought the only way this could work was if they made sure everyone had criminal offences.
“A number of the people have been out for five, six or seven years and have not reoffended. A number of people were groomed into criminal activity in childhood. A number of people grew up in care and social services should have had the responsibility to make them British citizens.
“The government like to put out the headline ‘crimes’ but the truth is way more complex, these are all people from working class families, a lot of them have partners who are key workers, cleaners, carers or nurses.”
Karen believes the Home Office will try to keep the remaining Jamaican nationals inside Colnbrook in an attempt to deport them again.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We make no apology for seeking to remove those with no right to remain in the UK and dangerous foreign criminals, including those who have been sentenced to six years in prison for grievous bodily harm.
“We regularly operate charter flights to countries around the world – to remove foreign offenders, and those who have no right to be in the country.
“This flight is not linked to the Windrush Review or the wrongs that the Windrush Generation faced, none of those on the flight are British Citizens, British Nationals or members of the Windrush generation.”