Supermodel Naomi Campbell and actress Thandie Newton are among a host of prominent figures calling on airlines not to operate a mass deportation flight to Jamaica next week.
“Unlawful and wrongful”
The open letter is addressed to the bosses of multiple airlines including Hi Fly, Titan Airways, and TUI UK and Ireland. In it more than 90 high-profile figures, campaigners, and activists have urged the companies to decline to operate the planned 2 December flight.
They are also calling for a pause on the operation of future deportation flights to Commonwealth countries.
The letter, which also includes actress Naomie Harris and former Metropolitan Police superintendent Leroy Logan among its signatories, says the planned deportation of “up to 50 people” risks the “unlawful and wrongful removal of people who have the right to remain in the UK” – highlighting the ongoing Windrush scandal as a primary reason why the flight is “wholly inappropriate”.
The Home Office has committed to enter into an agreement with us, after our assessment found that it failed to comply with the PSED when implementing the ‘hostile environment’ immigration policies.
— EHRC (@EHRC) November 25, 2020
The government said those on board the flight would include “dangerous foreign criminals” – including convicted rapists and murderers – and none of the offenders are eligible for the Windrush Scheme.
A report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission this week found the Home Office failed to comply with equality law when implementing “hostile environment” immigration measures, contributing to serious injustices faced by the Windrush generation. According to the authors of the letter, the report’s findings:
call into question the Home Office’s competency to deal with the continuing injustices it has created.
Until justice has been delivered for all Commonwealth Windrush victims, any deportations to Commonwealth countries risk further unlawful removals of Windrush generation members or Windrush descendants who may have the right to remain in the UK but do not yet have the required paperwork.
The letter claims one of the men deported to Jamaica in a flight in February “was the grandson of a woman who arrived on the HMT Empire Windrush and is still seeking to have his deportation order revoked”.
It adds some of the people due to be deported are believed to have been in the UK since childhood, while others are at “grave risk” of harm if they are removed from the UK.
A Home Office spokesperson told the PA news agency:
We make no apology for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals to keep the public safe. Each week we remove foreign criminals from the UK to different countries who have no right to be here, this flight is no different. The people being detained for this flight include convicted murderers and rapists.
The letter also said:
The credible risks of unlawful and wrongful deportations should be considered against a backdrop of concern about systemic racism. In an already challenging festive period … we ask you to reflect on whether the operation of this flight would comply with your corporate social responsibility values.
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