The first charter flight to Jamaica since the Windrush scandal will be taking off with 50 Commonwealth-born Britains on board, the U.K. Home Office confirmed Saturday.
Despite criticism from campaign groups, officials say the first round of Windrush victims will be deported on Feb. 6 followed by several others later this month. Last April, thousands of migrants responsible for the reconstruction of the U.K. after World War II discovered that, despite the promise of citizenship offered between 1948 and 1971, they were misidentified as illegal immigrants.
Last year’s scandal revealed that dozens, if not thousands, of Windrush recipients and their descendants, were wrongfully labeled or deported after a change to the immigration policies was implemented in 2014.
All of those due for deportation are said to have criminal convictions, though their time was served within U.K. jails and sending them to the Caribbean- a region they left as children- is akin to “brutal double punishment,” activists say.
The Home Office spokesman told the press, “The UK, like many other countries, uses charter flights to return people to their country of origin where they no longer have a right to remain.
“The majority of those being returned are returned on scheduled, commercial flights but this isn’t always an option, especially where the individual may be a foreign national offender,” the official said.
Karen Doyle, regional head of the Movement for Justice told the Independent, “Trying to restart mass deportations to Jamaica while the Windrush generation have yet to receive a penny, and many are still waiting months later for decisions, is a slap in the face for the Jamaican diaspora community in the UK.
“These people are being subject to brutal double punishment, many for crimes that the British public would not consider ‘serious’, drunken fights and driving offenses,” she said.
Among those destined for deportation is Twane Morgan, a two-time Afghani tour veteran who spent four years in the U.K. Army before being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“I’m worried for my boys. They say I can keep in contact with my children via Skype – how can you say that? Problems happen when families get split up or fathers get taken away. Children are more likely to get into trouble,” said Jamaican-born Morgan who served three years on assault charges delivered for an alleged act of self-defense against his abusive ex-partners father.
Stephen Shaw, an ex-prisons ombudsman, said, “For low-risk offenders, it seems entirely disproportionate to tear them away from their lives, families and friends in the UK, and send them to countries where they may not speak the language or have any ties.”
MP Diane Abbott is calling for transparency around the “brutal” chartered flight deportations.
“Ministers need to quickly confirm whether these individuals are British citizens. We should not deport our own citizens or deny their rights,” she told the Independent.